Dual citizenship is a confusing issue, and the United States’ stance on being a US citizen and a citizen of another country can be pretty complex.
Dual citizenship is allowed in the United States, but only under certain circumstances. There are many things to consider before you seek citizenship in another country besides the one you were born in.
What Is Dual Citizenship?
Your citizenship is often determined by where you were born — if you were born in the United States, you are more than likely a US citizen.
Of course, it’s not always that simple.
Your citizenship also depends on the citizenship of your parents or other family members. Many people gain dual citizenship at their birth through their parents.
Say that a US couple has a baby while in Canada. The child born abroad is a Canadian citizen due to the place of birth, but the child also gains US citizenship because the parents are US citizens who fulfilled residency requirements.
Parents’ citizenship is almost always taken into consideration, as are the citizenship laws of the country the child is born in. Keep in mind that not all countries give automatic citizenship to a child born within their borders.
It used to be common to gain dual citizenship through marriage — but this is increasingly uncommon today, as countries around the world have regulated processes that often require applications, fees and translations of personal documents for immigration. Obtaining residency in a country through marriage is still common, but it is no longer automatic and often can’t result in dual citizenship.
Naturalization is the most common way to gain citizenship in a different country than the one where you were born. While many countries allow naturalization, they may also require that candidates for naturalization renounce their previous citizenship.
Dual Citizenship in the United States
Dual citizenship had previously been banned in the United States, but in 1967 the US Supreme Court struck down most laws forbidding dual citizenship.
However, the US government remained disdainful of dual citizenship for some time. To this day, candidates for US citizenship through naturalization are forced to (at least hypothetically) renounce their previous citizenship at the United States naturalization ceremony.
The renouncing of one’s previous citizenship is part of the oath that new US citizens must take, and failing to honor that oath could result in the loss of citizenship in the United States.
Some cases that have been brought before the Department of State in the past involve people who became naturalized US citizens but maintained a residency and life in their country of previous citizenship.
While most countries recognize the Oath of Allegiance in the United States to be a binding contract regarding one’s citizenship, other countries have stated that the oath has no effect on their own citizenship laws. The US government used to aggressively pursue these cases to get the dual citizens to renounce their citizenship, but this is no longer the case.
Additionally, young children who naturalize in the United States along with their parents didn’t take the Oath of Allegiance — even though their parents did — and can technically still hold on to their previous citizenship.
People who have held dual citizenship since birth or childhood — or who became citizens of another country after becoming a US citizen and were not asked to renounce their previous citizenship — can remain dual citizens in the United States.