Several hundred thousand foreign nationals naturalize as U.S. citizens every year. Of this number, some choose to rescind their home citizenship in exchange for their new U.S. citizenship. Others decide to hang on to their new dual citizenship. Dual citizenship refers to the status of a person who holds the nationality of two different countries at the same time. In this article, we explain whether it's possible to be an American citizen while also being a citizen of another country and more.
Does the United States allow dual citizenship?
Yes, the United States allows dual citizenship. If you are a naturalized citizen, you don’t have to give up citizenship from your country of origin. U.S. immigration law does not prohibit dual nationality. The U.S. Supreme Court also ruled that people can “have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries.”
However, your country of origin may or may not allow dual citizenship. Certain countries will not recognize your status as a naturalized American citizen. For example, Canada and Italy allow for dual citizenship, but China does not. You could even lose your foreign citizenship status automatically after completing the American naturalization process or have to apply for citizenship retention. This makes it very important to check your current country's citizenship laws before applying for U.S citizenship.
Which countries allow dual citizenship with the United States?
This table explains whether the following countries recognize dual U.S. citizenship. Even if your home country recognizes dual citizenship, you may have to take extra steps to apply for, or maintain, this status such as, showing your U.S. naturalization certificate to officials from your home country. Be sure to note whether you will automatically lose citizenship in your home country.
If your country is not included on this table, it does not mean that they do not recognize dual citizenship with the United States. The information we included is only for the top five origin countries of immigrants in the United States. To determine whether your country permits dual citizenship, please reach out to your home country’s consulate.
What are the rights and responsibilities of a U.S. dual citizen?
As a U.S. citizen, you will now have new rights and responsibilities! Your new rights will include the ability to work and vote in the United States and easily travel abroad. Your new duties will involve paying U.S. taxes and serving for jury duty.
Rights of a U.S. dual citizen
- You can work anywhere in the United States without a work visa. However, as a dual citizen, you could be ineligible for certain federal jobs that require specific security clearances. The U.S. Department of State may consider your case a conflict of interest because you are also loyal to another nation.
- You can travel without restrictions for as long as you would like. This includes international travel. If you plan to stay in a foreign country for over a year, you don’t need a re-entry permit like green card holders or permanent residents would.
- You can obtain green cards for your family members.
- You can vote in any U.S. election.
- You can enroll in a U.S. school without a student visa and without paying international student rates.
- You can access any public benefits you need if you meet the eligibility requirements. This includes federal tuition assistance specifically for U.S. citizens.
Responsibilities of a U.S. dual citizen
- You must file for and pay U.S. taxes for life. This includes income tax, even if you earn income outside of the United States. You may have to pay taxes to both the United States and your country of citizenship unless your country has an agreement with the United States to help dual citizens not pay double taxes.
- You will have to disclose any previous encounters with law enforcement. When USCIS evaluates your citizenship application, they will closely examine your background history. If you committed certain violations, such as immigration fraud or domestic violence, USCIS could deport you.
- U.S. law may require you to serve in the military. All men who lived in the United States or received a green card between 18 and 26 years of age must register with the Selective Service System. If there is a war, the U.S. government could call upon any U.S. citizens to perform military service.
- You must serve on a jury if summoned. Jury duty is mandatory. However, even if the court calls you, you may not be selected. The judge and attorneys will have to screen and choose you.
What are some advantages and disadvantages of U.S. dual citizenship?
There are both downsides and benefits of dual citizenship, so it is essential to keep these effects in mind before applying. On the one hand, you may be eligible for lower tuition rates and owning property. However, you may face double taxation, restrictions for specific jobs, and military service restrictions.
Advantages of dual citizenship
Dual citizens get the benefits and privileges offered by their two countries of citizenship. For example, you may be able to vote or receive a lower tuition rate for schools in both countries if the law permits.
In addition, you can carry two passports. You can carry both a U.S. passport and a foreign passport to travel easily between the two countries. You won't have to get a visa for more extended stays and won't have to go through specific questions about travel intent for customs processing. You will also have the right to entry for both countries. This could be beneficial if you need to visit family or travel for work or school.
You can also own property in either country. Some countries, such as Mexico, only allow citizens to own certain parts of the land.
Disadvantages of dual citizenship
Although you receive all the benefits offered by your two countries of citizenship, you also receive all the obligations. For example, you could lose U.S. citizenship if a foreign country requires you to serve as an officer in a war against the United States. However, there are different policies for different situations.
You could also face double taxation. Because the United States requires you to pay income tax no matter where you earned the income, you may have to pay income taxes to two nations. However, certain countries have made tax treaties with the United States to prevent double taxation. For example, people with New Zealand citizenship or Canadian citizenship can avoid double taxes. You may still have to file, so it’s best to consult with an accountant.
You could also face barriers to specific jobs. For example, you may be unable to get certain positions in the federal government that require security clearances that exclude dual citizens.
How to get dual citizenship in the United States
There is no separate application form for “dual citizenship.” You will apply for U.S. citizenship by naturalization, just like eligible foreign nationals wanting to become U.S. citizens do.
Before applying, though, you should first contact the embassy or consulate in your country of origin to find out whether your country allows dual citizenship and what the rules are surrounding it. You don’t want to lose your citizenship in that country without knowing beforehand, so check in with a consular officer.
After determining the rules, you should make sure you satisfy all U.S. naturalization requirements. Usually, this means waiting three to five years after getting a green card. If you are a child of a U.S. citizen, there are different naturalization requirements, and you won’t have to wait three to five years.
Now you can begin the process by submitting Form N-400, named “Application for Naturalization.” You may have to include additional documents such as birth certificates or marriage certificates. Usually, from applying to attending your Oath of Allegiance ceremony, the entire process will take between 18.5 and 24 months.
Gaining U.S. dual citizenship can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you are first applying for a green card or even for naturalization but can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!