Dual Citizenship, or Dual Nationality, exists when a person is a citizen of the United States and another country at the same time. This can occur through several means. Since each country has its own citizenship laws, persons may gain automatic dual citizenship through birth or marriage. Those who gain dual citizenship through automatic means do not risk losing their United States citizenship. However, those who voluntarily apply for citizenship in a foreign country may lose their U.S. citizenship if they do so with the intention of abandoning their U.S. citizenship. Intentionality can be shown through a person’s statements or actions. These acts can include:
- Naturalizing in a foreign state
- Taking an oath or declaration of allegiance to a foreign state
- Serving in the armed forces of a foreign state engaged in a conflict with the United States or is an officer of any kind in the armed forces of a foreign state
- Being employed by the government of a foreign state if the person has the nationality of that state or took an oath or declaration of allegiance to that state in order to accept the position
- Renouncing U.S. citizenship in front of a U.S. diplomatic or consular office abroad
- Renouncing U.S. citizenship in the United States
- Being convicted of an act of treason against the United States
However, intent to keep U.S. citizenship will be presumed if a person:
- Accepts a non-policy position with a foreign state
- Is naturalized in a foreign state
- Takes a routine oath of allegiance to a foreign state
- Serves in the armed forces of a foreign state not engaged in conflict with the United States
When a U.S. consular officer discovers that an individual has made a potentially expatriating act, he or she will contact the person and simply ask if there was any intent to abandon U.S. citizenship. If the dual citizen denies any attempt at expatriation, the consular officer must then verify that the citizen wished to keep their U.S. citizenship.
The United States Department of State does not encourage dual nationality since issues of sovereignty may arise with the dual national. For example, a person with dual citizenship may have more trouble receiving assistance from the United States while abroad in another country, especially the country of dual citizenship. In this case, the stronger claim goes to the country in which the dual-national is located.
Since dual nationals owe allegiance to two countries, he or she must also follow both sets of laws. The United States also encourages the use of a U.S. passport when leaving the United States, though using a foreign passport does not endanger U.S. citizenship. Both countries of the dual citizen have the right to enforce their laws on the dual national, though the stronger claim goes to the country in which the dual national is located.
Not all countries allow their citizens to have citizenship in another country. Some countries, such as China, Japan and Denmark, have a policy of exclusive citizenship and voluntarily acquiring another citizenship means the abandonment of citizenship in that country. Other countries, such as Spain, may have special rules in place that only allow dual citizenship with country with whom they have a dual citizenship agreement. Others countries, such as Switzerland, Taiwan, and Australia, encourage dual or multiple citizenship.Be sure to carefully research and understand the immigration policies of the United States and country of potential dual citizenship before proceeding.
Relinquishing U.S. Citizenship
If the person affirms that they are attempting to relinquish their U.S. citizenship, they must fill out a questionnaire to figure out their intent regarding their U.S. citizenship. Once completed, a voluntary relinquishment statement must be signed by the expatriate and the consular office will prepare a certificate of loss of nationality which will also be received by the Department of State. Expatriation also involves an interview with a consular official, normally abroad, as well as a new home country secured by the expatriate to avoid statelessness.
Loss of Nationality and Taxation
Perhaps the most common reason for relinquishing United States citizenship is to avoid taxation. Acts of voluntary expatriation have been on a rise in the United States recently and some speculate that this is because the U.S. is one of the only countries in the world that taxes on citizenship rather than residency. This means that the U.S. taxes on worldwide income instead of only income accrued in the United States and even includes off-shore bank accounts and investments abroad. For this reason, many wealthy American citizens have renounced their citizenship in favor of citizenship in countries with residency-based taxation and lighter tax rates than the United States. Due to the increasing number of expatriates, the United States enacted an exit tax in 2008. The tax applies for those who:
- Averaged an income of over $151,000 over the last 5 years
- Have a net worth of over $2 million
- Fail to demonstrate that they have complied with U.S. federal tax regulations over the last 5 years
The exit tax takes all of an expatriate’s net gains on assets into account after the first $651,000. The IRS taxes those assets as if the expatriate sold them all the day before expatriation. The IRS also taxes the U.S citizen heirs of expatriates at the current estate tax rate of 35%. Aside from taxation, expatriates, as foreign aliens, will not be able to enter the United States without the appropriate visa.
For more information on citizenship, please click one of the links below:
Citizenship by Birth
Child Citizenship Act of 2000
Dual Citizenship and Relinquishing United States Citizenship
National Status (Non-Citizen)
Frequently Asked Questions about Citizenship