Can I Have Dual Citizenship With the U.S. and My Home Country?

In most cases, merely naturalizing in the United States establishes dual citizenship.

Can I Have Dual Citizenship With the U.S. and My Home Country?

Citizens of the United States are entitled to all benefits of citizenship regardless of whether they hold citizenship in another country.[1] This remains true as long as a person has not voluntarily renounced his or her citizenship or acted in a way deemed to be inconsistent with allegiance to the United States.[2]

In the Nationality Act of 1940 Congress declared that any American citizen who voted in a foreign election would lose his or her citizenship.

However, with their ruling in Afroyium v. Rusk in 1967 the Supreme Court of the United States struck down this law as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and declared that all citizens retain a constitutional right to remain a citizen unless they voluntarily relinquish that citizenship.[3]

People who come to the United States seeking freedom and opportunities often leave friends and family behind in their former country of residence. It should not be surprising or concerning that such immigrants still feel a connection to their original home and remaining a citizen of that country is not forbidden by American law.

Additionally any American citizen, whether born or naturalized, may take up residence and/or citizenship in another country without losing his or her U.S. citizenship.

Methods for Obtaining Dual Citizenship

Although dual citizenship is not encouraged by the federal government, it has been widely recognized that people who are naturalized in the United States are free to retain their foreign citizenship.[4]

When a person takes the Oath of Allegiance to become an American citizen, the citizenship he or she was born with is not automatically revoked under American law. In most cases, merely naturalizing in the United States establishes dual citizenship.

Sometimes dual citizenship comes as a result of citizenship laws in a foreign country.

A child born in the United States is automatically recognized as a citizen. If that child’s parents are citizens of a foreign country which recognizes citizenship for anyone born to parents who are citizens, the child is automatically afforded dual citizenship.

Similarly, when a child of two American citizen parents is born in a foreign country which grants citizenship to children born within its borders, that child becomes a dual citizen.

Many countries, including the United States, grant citizenship to the spouse of a current citizen. This means that a natural-born American citizen may obtain dual citizenship by marrying a citizen of another country and following procedures in that country for becoming a citizen.

Why Would Anyone Want to be a Dual Citizen?

Citizenship usually affords the opportunity to work, vote, own property, and enjoy services provided by the government in the country of citizenship. Sometimes just one of these rights may be advantageous to attain in more than one country.

There are also cultural advantages such as the right to travel and promote the image of one country in another. For example, a typical American citizen would have to pay for a visa to visit Russia but a dual citizen of the United States and Ukraine would simply need to show his or her Ukrainian visa to enter Russia without a visa.[5]

Sometimes the benefit of dual citizenship would simply be the ease of travel between countries. To enter a European country may take less time when you hold a European Union passport as opposed to an American passport and there are many other countries where travel is less complicated depending on which passport you use.

The list of potential advantages of dual citizenship could go on for several pages with specific distinctions depending on which countries you hold citizenship in. An important fact to notice is that foreign citizenship does not pose any restriction on your rights and responsibilities as an American citizen.

Activities that Result in Revocation of American Citizenship

Generally, American citizens are free to travel and reside in any country they prefer without the risk of losing their U.S. citizenship. However, there are limited exceptions to this rule that would result in loss of American citizenship.

A person can lose their U.S. citizenship if he or she

  • Serves in the armed forces of a foreign state if those forces are engaged in hostilities against the United States,
  • Holds office in a foreign government which requires a declaration of allegiance to that nation,
  • Commits an act of treason or tries to overthrow or bear arms against the United States government.[6]

In addition to overt acts of treason or attempts to wage war against the United States, a person may formally renounce his or her American citizenship by making a formal written renunciation or by formally renouncing his or her citizenship before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States in a foreign country.

While Congress has set forth these rules in addition to several other actions by which an American citizen can lose his or her citizenship, the U.S. Supreme Court has found that these methods of expatriation would require voluntary intent to relinquish U.S. nationality.[7]

In other words, service in a foreign military or government does not automatically revoke American citizenship without some other showing of a person’s intent to do so.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution declares that all persons born or naturalized in the United States are American citizens and the U.S. Supreme Court has held that this entitles individuals to retain their citizenship for as long as they please.


[1] Schneider v. Rusk, 377 U.S. 163 (1964)

[2] Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144 (1963)

[3] Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967)

[4] http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal-considerations/us-citizenship-laws-policies/citizenship-and-dual-nationality/dual-nationality.html

[5] http://traveltips.usatoday.com/advantages-dual-citizenship-61144.html

[6] 8 U.S.C. § 1481

[7] http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal-considerations/us-citizenship-laws-policies/citizenship-and-dual-nationality.html

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