Dual nationality is the simultaneous possession of two citizenships. The Supreme Court of the United States has stated that dual nationality is "a status long recognized in the law" and that "a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both. The mere fact that he asserts the rights of one citizenship does not without more mean that he renounces the other", Kawakita v. U.S., 343 U.S. 717 (1952). (The Consulate General does not have Supreme Court cases on file; interested parties may wish to consult with local law school libraries.) The concepts discussed in this leaflet apply also to persons who have more than two nationalities.
Dual nationality results from the fact that there is no uniform rule of international law relating to the acquisition of nationality. Each country has its own laws on the subject, and its nationality is conferred upon individuals on the basis of its own independent domestic policy. Individuals may have dual nationality not by choice but by automatic operation of these different and sometimes conflicting laws.
The laws of the United States, no less than those of other countries, contribute to the situation because they provide for acquisition of U.S. citizenship by birth in the United States and also by birth abroad to an American, regardless of the other nationalities which a person might acquire at birth. For example, a child born abroad to U.S. citizens may acquire at birth not only American citizenship but also the nationality of the country in which it was born. Similarly, a child born in the United States to foreigners may acquire at birth both U.S. citizenship and a foreign nationality.
The laws of some countries provide for automatic acquisition of citizenship after birth -- for example, by marriage. In addition, some countries do not recognize naturalization in a foreign state as grounds for loss of citizenship. A person from one of those countries who is naturalized in the United States keeps the nationality of the country of origin despite the fact that one of the requirements for U.S. naturalization is a renunciation of other nationalities.
The current nationality laws of the United States do not specifically refer to dual nationality. The automatic acquisition or retention of a foreign nationality does not affect U.S. citizenship; however, under limited circumstances, the acquisition of a foreign nationality upon one's own application or the application of a duly authorized agent may cause loss of U.S. citizenship under Section 349 (a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act [8 U.S.C. 1481 (a)(1)].
In order for loss of nationality to occur under Section 349 (a)(1), it must be established that the naturalization was obtained voluntarily by a person eighteen years of age or older with the intention of relinquishing U.S. citizenship. Such an intention may be shown by the person's statements or conduct, Vance v. Terrazas, 444 U.S. 252 (1980), but as discussed below in most cases it is assumed that Americans who are naturalized in other countries intend to keep their U.S. citizenship. As a result, they have both nationalities.
United States law does not contain any provisions requiring U.S. citizens who are born with dual nationality to choose one nationality or the other when they become adults, Mandoli v. Acheson, 344 U.S. 133 (1952).
While recognizing the existence of dual nationality and permitting Americans to have other nationalities, the U.S. Government does not endorse dual nationality as a matter of policy because of the problems which it may cause. Claims of other countries upon dual-national U.S. citizens often place them in situations where their obligations to one country are in conflict with the laws of the other. In addition, their dual nationality may hamper efforts to provide diplomatic and consular protections to them when they are abroad.
It generally is considered that while dual nationals are in the country of which they are citizens that country has a predominant claim on them.
As with Americans who possess only U.S. citizenship, dual national U.S. citizens owe allegiance to the United States and are obliged to obey its laws and regulations. Such persons usually have certain obligations to the other country as well. Although failure to fulfill such obligations may have no adverse effect on dual nationals while in the United States because the other country would have few means to force compliance under those circumstances, dual nationals might be forced to comply with those obligations or pay a penalty if they go to the country of their other citizenship. In cases where dual nationals encounter difficulty in a foreign country of which they are citizens, the ability of U.S. Foreign Service posts to provide assistance may be quite limited since many foreign countries may not recognize a dual national's claim to U.S. citizenship.
Section 215 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1185) requires U.S. citizens to use U.S. passports when entering or leaving the United States unless one of the exceptions listed in Section 53.2 of Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations applies. (One of these exceptions permits a child under the age of 12, who is included in the foreign passport of a parent who has no claim to U.S. citizenship, to enter the United States without a U.S. passport, provided the child presents evidence of his/her U.S. citizenship when entering the United States.) Dual nationals may be required by the other country of which they are citizens to enter or leave that country using its passport, but do not endanger their U.S. citizenship by complying with such a requirement.
Most countries have laws which specify how a citizen may lose or divest citizenship. Generally, persons who do not wish to maintain dual nationality may renounce the citizenship which they do not want. Information on renouncing a foreign nationality may be obtained from the foreign country's Embassies and Consulates or from the appropriate governmental agency in that country.
Americans may renounce their U.S. citizenship abroad pursuant to Section 349 (a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act [8 U.S.C. 1481 (a)(5)]. Information on renouncing U.S. citizenship may be obtained from U.S. Embassies and Consulates and the office of Citizens Consular Services, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520.
Furthermore, an American citizen who is naturalized as a citizen of another country voluntarily and with intent to abandon his/her allegiance to the United States may so indicate their intent and thereby lose U.S. citizenship. See below for further information.
For further information on dual nationality, see Marjorie M. Whiteman's Digest of International Law (Department of State Publication 8290, released September 1967), Volume 8, pages 64-84.
Section 349 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, states that U.S. citizens are subject to loss of citizenship if they perform certain acts voluntarily. Briefly stated, these acts include:
(a) obtaining naturalization in a foreign state (Sec. 349(a)(1), INA);
(b) taking an oath, affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or its political subdivisions (Sec. 349(a)(2), INA);
(c) entering or serving in the armed forces of a foreign state engaged in hostilities against the U.S. or serving as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer in the armed forces of a foreign state (Sec. 349(a)(3), INA);
(d) accepting employment with a foreign government if:
(i) one has or acquires the nationality of that foreign state;
or (ii) a declaration of allegiance is required in accepting the position (Sec. 349(a)(4), INA);
(e) formally renouncing U.S. citizenship before a U.S. consular officer outside the United States (Sec. 349(a)(5), INA);
(f) formally renouncing U.S. citizenship within the U.S. (but only in time of war) (Sec. 349(a)(6), INA);
(g) conviction for an act of treason (Sec. 349(a)(7), INA).
The actions listed above can cause loss of U.S. citizenship only if performed voluntarily and with the intention of relinquishing U.S. citizenship. The Department has a uniform administrative standard of evidence based on the premise that U.S. citizens intend to retain United States citizenship when they obtain naturalization in a foreign state, subscribe to routine declarations of allegiance to a foreign state, or accept non-policy level employment with a foreign government. (See note on policy-level employment, below.)
In light of the administrative premise discussed above, a person who:
(1) is naturalized in a foreign country;
or (2) takes a routine oath of allegiance;
or (3) accepts non-policy level employment with a foreign government
and in so doing wishes to retain U.S. citizenship need not submit prior to the commission of a potentially expatriating act a statement or evidence of his or her intent to retain U.S. citizenship since such an intent will be presumed.
When such cases come to the attention of a U.S. consular officer, for example, the person concerned applies for a new passport, he/she is required to submit with the application a supplementary explanatory signed statement to ascertain his/her intent towards U.S. citizenship. Accordingly, the consular officer will certify that it was not the person's intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship and, consequently, find that the person has retained U.S. citizenship. Evidence of how and when the foreign nationality was acquired should be presented with the statement.
The premise that a person intends to retain U.S. citizenship is not applicable when the individual:
(1) formally renounces U.S. citizenship before a consular officer;
or (2) takes a policy level position in a foreign state;
or (3) is convicted of treason;
or (4) performs an act made potentially expatriating by statute accompanied by conduct which is so inconsistent with retention of U.S. citizenship that it compels a conclusion that the individual intended to relinquish U.S. citizenship. (Such cases are very rare.)
Cases in categories 2, 3 and 4 will be developed carefully by U.S. consular officers to ascertain the individual’s intent towards U.S. citizenship.
As a general rule, policy level employment would include, but not be limited to, the following high government positions: head of state or government, member of a national legislature, top positions in executive agencies, and diplomatic representatives down to even relatively low positions.
An individual who has performed any of the acts made potentially expatriating by statute who wishes to lose U.S. citizenship may do so by affirming in writing to a U.S. consular officer that the act was performed with an intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship.
This can be done by signing a "Statement of Voluntary Relinquishment of U.S. Nationality" in the presence of a U.S. consular officer, or by submitting a signed statement executed before a Notary Public or a Court Magistrate. In any case, evidence of foreign citizenship (original copy) and U.S. citizenship must be presented to a U.S. consular officer as outlined above.
A person always has the option of seeking to formally renounce U.S. citizenship in accordance with Section 349(a)(5), INA. Please consult the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General in your consular district for details.
We strongly recommend that a person who wishes to sign the "Statement of Voluntary Relinquishment of U.S. Nationality" do so before a consular officer, to ensure that the statement is clear and unequivocal as to the person's intent. With respect to renunciation, in every case the renunciation must be done in person before a consular officer.
The premise established by the administrative standard of evidence is applicable to cases previously adjudicated by the Department. Persons who previously lost U.S. citizenship may wish to have their cases reconsidered in light of this policy. A person may initiate such a reconsideration by submitting a request to the nearest U.S. consular office or by writing directly to:
Chief, East Asia and Pacific Division
Office of American Citizens Services
(CA/OCS/ACS/EAP), Room 4811
Department of State
Washington D.C. 20520-4818
Each case will be reviewed on its own merits taking into consideration, for example, statements made by the person at the time of the potentially expatriating act. (See “Review of Loss of U.S. Nationality”.)
When a person is naturalized in a foreign state (or otherwise possesses another nationality) and is thereafter found not to have lost U.S. citizenship, the individual consequently may possess dual nationality. It is prudent, however, to check with authorities of the other country to see if dual nationality is permissible under local law. The United States does not favor dual nationality as a matter of policy, but does recognize its existence in individual cases.
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