A person with dual citizenship is a citizen of two countries at the same time, which has both advantages and disadvantages because it is a complex legal status. One benefit of dual citizenship that is often cited is the ability of an individual to possess two passports; however, a potential drawback is the possibility of double taxation.

Key Takeaways

  • Dual citizens enjoy certain benefits, such as the ability to live and work freely in two countries, own property in both countries, and travel between the countries with relative ease.
  • Not every country recognizes dual citizenship, and you may need to renounce your birth citizenship to become a citizen of a new country.
  • Drawbacks of being a dual citizen include the potential for double taxation, the long and expensive process for obtaining dual citizenship, and the fact that you become bound by the laws of two nations.
  • The easiest way to become a dual citizen is by birth, although many migrants can become naturalized citizens when they move to a new country or marry a foreign spouse.
  • Applying for dual citizenship is a complicated and typically expensive process that may require the assistance of an immigration lawyer.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Dual Citizenship

What Is Dual Citizenship?

Not all countries allow dual citizenship, but the United States does. Dual citizenship happens automatically in some situations, such as when a child is born in the U.S. to parents who are residents of a foreign country. Unless the parents are foreign diplomats, the child generally becomes a citizen of the U.S., in addition to any citizenship they inherit from their parents.

Similarly, if a child of U.S. citizens is born overseas, they may automatically become a citizen of both the U.S. and their country of birth (although this is situational because it depends on that specific country’s laws).

Dual citizenship can also be achieved through specialized legal processes, such as when a foreign national is naturalized as a U.S. citizen. In this case, that person would become a citizen of both countries, unless their home country does not allow dual citizenship.

In order to become naturalized as a U.S. citizen, a foreign national must be a permanent resident for several years, pass a U.S. citizenship test, and meet certain other eligibility requirements.

Advantages of Dual Citizenship

Political Rights

Dual citizens can participate fully in the political life of every country where they have citizenship. This includes the right to vote and stand in elections, and the right to make donations to political candidates.

Work and Travel

Unlike foreigners, dual citizens do not require a visa or permit to visit the countries where they have citizenship, and they can stay for as long as they like. They also have the right to seek work in both countries, while foreigners must pass through a lengthy process to get a work permit. They are also exempt from any restrictions on foreign businesspeople.

Social Services

Dual citizens can receive the benefits and privileges offered by each country where they are a citizen. For example, they may travel to receive medical treatment or procedures that are not available in the other country of their citizenship. They can also receive an education at the same price as domestic students.

Two Passports 

As a dual citizen, you are allowed to carry passports from both countries. For example, if you are a U.S. citizen and also a citizen of New Zealand, you can travel more easily between these two countries. Having a citizen’s passport eliminates the need for long-stay visas and any questioning about the purpose of your trip during the customs process.

It also guarantees the individual in possession of two passports the right of entry to both the U.S. and New Zealand; this can be especially beneficial if you have family to visit in both countries, or if you are a student or a businessperson that either studies or conducts affairs in both countries.

Property Ownership 

Another benefit of dual citizenship is the ability to own property in either country. Some countries restrict land ownership to citizens only. As a legal citizen of two countries, you would be able to purchase property in either—or both—countries. If you travel frequently between the two countries, this might be especially useful since property ownership might offer a more economical way to live in two places.

Cultural Education

As a dual citizen, you’ll reap the benefits of being immersed in the culture of the two countries. Some government officials are also fond of dual citizenship and see it as a way to promote the country’s image as a prime destination for tourists. Dual citizenship offers individuals the opportunity to learn about the history of both countries, learn two (or more) languages, and experience a different way of life.

Because dual citizenship is complex and the rules and laws regarding citizenship vary between different countries, it may be in your best interest to consult with qualified experts–including accountants and lawyers–about certain purchases or decisions related to employment and your finances.

Disadvantages of Dual Citizenship

Dual Obligations 

As a dual citizen, you are bound by the laws of both countries. For example, if you are a citizen of the U.S. and a country with mandatory military service, you can lose your U.S. citizenship under certain circumstances, such as if you serve as an officer in a foreign military that is engaged in a war against the U.S.

In general, U.S. policy recognizes that dual citizens might be legally obligated to fulfill military obligations abroad, and many can do so without jeopardizing their U.S. citizen status, but it is important to research each situation carefully.

Double Taxation 

For individuals who are dual citizens of the U.S. and another country, the U.S. imposes taxes on its citizens for income earned anywhere in the world. If you are living in your country of dual residence that is not the U.S., you may owe taxes both to the U.S. government and to the country where the income was earned.

However, income tax treaties between the U.S. and other countries serve to effectively reduce or eliminate an individual’s tax liability in order to avoid double taxation. For example, a treaty between the U.S. and New Zealand overrides the income tax laws of each country to avoid double taxation.

Even so, dual citizens may be required to file U.S. tax returns even if they are living and earning income in New Zealand. Because tax laws are complicated and can change from year to year, it’s important for individuals facing this situation to consult with a qualified tax accountant.

U.S. citizens are required to report their overseas income, even if it is earned as a foreign citizen. The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion allows U.S. citizens to exclude up to $112,000 of foreign-earned income from their taxes in 2022 ($120,000 in 2023).

Barriers to Some Forms of Employment

Depending on your career path, dual citizenship can be a disadvantage. If you are seeking a position with the U.S government or your job requires access to information that is considered classified by the U.S. government, having dual citizenship may bar you from gaining the security clearance you need for this type of employment. Those born into dual citizenship may encounter fewer problems than those who actively sought it out. 

Complicated Process 

Sometimes dual citizenship happens automatically (for example, when a child is born in the U.S. to foreign parents). Other times, however, the process can take many years and can be extremely expensive and complicated. This can deter some people from pursuing dual citizenship.

Process for Gaining Dual Citizenship in the United States

If you were not born in the U.S. and you want to become a U.S. citizen, there are many requirements for gaining dual citizenship. In addition, the requirements for gaining citizenship in the U.S. may be different for individuals based on their circumstances and their other country (or countries) of residence.

In general, to apply for U.S. citizenship, you must have lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident–and have a permanent resident (green) card–continuously for five years (or three years if you are filing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen). Other eligibility requirements include being at least 18 years old when you apply and being able to read, write, and speak basic English.

You must also pay a fee to apply for permanent residency and then another fee to file an application for citizenship. The amount of the fee depends on what application you use and your filing category. This fee is set by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

For most people, the complicated process of gaining citizenship requires the help of an immigration lawyer. Immigration lawyers can help individuals achieve citizenship, although they also require fees for their services. To apply for permanent residency, most individuals file form 1-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. To apply for naturalization, most individuals file form N-400, the application for naturalization.

How Do You Become a Dual Citizen?

The shortest path to becoming a dual citizen is through birth, either by having parents with dual citizenship or by being born in a country with birthright citizenship. Otherwise, you can obtain dual citizenship by marrying someone who is a citizen of a different country than yourself, or by being naturalized as a citizen in a different country. Some countries also offer citizenship based on ancestry.

Note that not all countries recognize dual citizenship, and in some cases, you might be forced to give up your original citizenship to become naturalized.

How Do You Become a Dual Citizen of Canada?

Canadian citizenship is increasingly attractive to prospective migrants, due to the attractive social programs and advanced economy. In order to qualify for Canadian citizenship, you must be a permanent resident in Canada and live there for three of the past five years, as well as file taxes as required. You also have to pass a test to show an understanding of citizenship rights and responsibilities, and demonstrate language skills in English or French.

Which Passport Should Dual Citizens Use?

Each country has its own laws and restrictions about who can enter its borders, and dual citizens should consider the advantages of both passports when crossing customs. For example, if a certain destination offers visa-free travel to country A and strict visa requirements for country B, it makes sense for a dual national to use country A’s passport rather than country B’s. Conversely, some countries may require you to use a specific passport, if you have it. The United States requires all dual citizens to enter on their U.S. passport.

The Bottom Line

Dual citizenship is when a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time, with all the rights and privileges that come with it. Dual citizens can travel freely in both countries, as well as work, do business, own land, and do other activities that may be restricted to foreigners; however, there are also disadvantages, as dual citizens may face extra taxes or even military service.

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