Originally a nation state would claim all of the people within it’s borders as it’s own. There was a feudal theory of allegiance to the sovereign of the country and it was presumed to be permanent.
After a number of international incidents where citizens of one country were persecuted or prosecuted for treasonous acts against a country that was not actual their own, the United States Congress passed the Expatriation Act of 1868 which enabled Americans to renounce their citizenship.
The British Parliament followed suit and gradually the idea that a person was perpetually attached to a country was questioned. Despite this, countries were not keen on the idea that a person might be attached to more than one nation at a time.
Two of the goals of the 1930 Hague Convention were to abolish dual citizenship and statelessness. It was only ratified by twenty countries.
Where Did Dual Citizenship Originate?
In fact, it is only recently, since the 1980s that dual citizenship has become more easily attainable, in part because of the internal rules of the European Union, which aims to bring people’s together peacefully from across the European continent. In other places, such as Canada for example, it was only on the passing of the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1976 that restrictions were removed. Similar acts had been passed in 1948 in the UK and 1967 in the USA.
How To Qualify For Dual Citizenship?
Every nation state has the right to write it’s own laws as it’s legislators see fit. While there are some overriding concepts laid down by organisations such as the United Nations and European Union, the reality is that exact rules are different for each country.
This means that very specific individual research and guidance needs to be conducted for every individual before proceeding. The rules required to qualify for dual citizenship are literally different from country to country. It is also worth noting that the rules can be different on paper and in reality. The power over family and lifestyle that residency and nationality have means that unsavoury bureaucrats can and often do expect bribes and favours for the fast expediting of paperwork.
Is Dual Citizenship Good Or Bad?
There are a number of difficult to define emotions that nationality and a passport carry. Where we are born and to whom are intangibles that are built into our psyches and are interpreted differently by each person.
There are certainly some people, often categorized by their career path that see a second nationality as being unpatriotic and a bad thing. In contrast, there are many people that have some level of libertarian political views that see a second passport as being an extra level of freedom from big government. Whether one view is philosophically right or wrong is not for me to say.
On a purely practical level, there have been many times in recent history where there has been some level of trouble or conflict and it has been impossible for residents to cross a border to safety. In these times, being considered to be from a neutral country and allowed to exit the situation would be very useful, perhaps even life saving. In life or death circumstances, who can argue that an extra option is a bad thing?
Does Dual Citizenship Mean Two Passports?
Yes, dual citizenship does mean two passports for the individual. That, generally speaking is a good thing. However, it is worth remembering that nationality has responsibilities as well as rights. For example, some countries still have national service where everyone withing certain age ranges are expected to perform some time in the armed forces. Other countries have mandatory voting or taxation responsibilities.
I have once met a person that told me that he had three passports. This was mainly an accident of birth, but as more and more Europeans of different nations marry (it is around ten percent of all EU marriages) there will likely be more and more people that have a third, or perhaps even a fourth passport. For those people, multiple citizenship is a better description of their situation.
Is Dual Citizenship Expensive?
The level of cost depends purely on the circumstances. For the majority of people with more than one passport, they will have qualified by birth, marriage or through their parents or grandparents. In circumstances like these, the cost is generally just a matter of time and effort to complete the correct paperwork and complete the application process.
However, for others, either purchasing or bribing their way to a document is obviously more expensive. There are other parts of this website that explore the idea of citizenship by investment (explained here) and the potential costs.
As mentioned above, some countries have a taxation burden on their subjects, based on nationality and not residence. The most well known of these countries is the United States. If you happen to have a US passport, then yes, it might prove to be expensive!
Can Dual Citizenship Expire?
All modern passports are issued with a start and expiry date. It is therefore designed into the system that a passport will expire. Normally it is a simple task to renew a document. However, if a government changes a law relating to multiple nationality while a document exists it is possible that it will be difficult or impossible to renew.
In practice, changing the terms of what it means to be a national of a country is a big deal and will attract a lot of press attention, public and political debate. This means that there ought to be ample notice of a change in the law.
Is Dual Citizenship Illegal?
Yes, in some countries it is illegal. For example, in recent years there has been something of a gold rush for small nation states to try and attract wealthy foreign investors to buy real estates and economic citizenship.
The lawyers and brokers have targeted Russian oligarchs and more lately wealthy Chinese businessmen. As it happens, China does not recognise dual nationality which means that the investor is taking quite a risk if he (it is almost always a “he”) and his family acquire second passports.
For another example, the best friend of your author is married to a South African. His wife renounced her nationality to take up German nationality some years ago to enable her to live and work in Europe. If she wanted to live in Europe – the UK – which she did, then being an EU subject made things much easier, but South Africa does not allow dual nationality.
How Can Dual Citizenship Be Obtained?
There are essentially eight ways to obtain dual citizenship.
The most common is by descent, meaning that one of a person’s parents is a citizen of the nation. This is known as jus sanguinis.
Next is by birth, meaning that a person was born on the soil of a country. This is known as jus soli.
Marriage to a citizen of a nation usually confers rights of nationality after a qualifying number of years of wedded bliss has been completed. This is known as jure matrimonii.
Naturalization requires a person to live permanently in country for a qualifying period of time, normally several years, and prove themselves to be a good and productive member of society.
Some countries allow nationality by religion, meaning that proof of your religion is enough, or a vital qualifying factor to acceptance.
It was relatively rare, but is now more common for nationality to be granted by adoption.
Economic investment in jobs, real estate or the country (government bonds), plus a qualifying period of time is becoming more common and is offered by a wide range of countries (listed here) and at very different price points.
There are a small number of nation states that provide nationality by office. This is known as jus oficii. The most well known example of this relates to the Holy See and Vatican City. Members of the diplomatic corps and residents of Vatican City are granted time limited nationality. When their occupation changes or comes to an end, they revert to their former nationality, which means that dual citizenship must be allowed to prevent them from becoming stateless at the end of a term in office.
Does Dual Citizenship Affect Social Security Benefits?
This would need to be checked on an individual level, but generally social security benefits relate to one’s residence (where you live) and the contributions being made to the system.
How Many Passports Can A Person Have?
There are almost certainly a select few individuals in the world that have taken the words “multiple passports” to a limit. Perhaps they have unusual life circumstances where they were born to parents of differing nationality in a third country and then have moved and naturalized elsewhere.
The most your author has met and seen was actually an ex-girlfriend who had three European Union passports. There are almost certainly many people with more than three. But, the nature of nationality and naturalization means that there is a very real limit to how many a person might have – more than five would seem to be difficult. In a world of investment opportunities, it must be possible for a person to buy their way to several extra documents.
Which Countries Allow Dual Citizenship?
The list of countries that allow dual citizenship is now very long. Most major nations that you can name would be on the list. For example, most European Union Member States allow dual nationality. As we have already read, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom also allow it.
Most countries allow naturalization, marriage and descent as reasons for nationality, which therefore means that countries that allow dual citizenship includes those that have not specifically prohibited a second allegiance.
Can I Have Dual Citizenship?
To answer this question it is important to investigate your own circumstances thoroughly, plus those of your parents and grandparents and also your spouse. If you are from a region where travelling was common, or from a region where national borders have changed (this was quite common in central and eastern Europe, for example) there is a good chance that you can apply.
It is also worth noting that some countries are much more open to this than others. For example, if you have some sort of family background in Ireland or Italy, or you are Jewish (Israel), you will likely have a good chance of success.
Whatever your situation, be prepared to do your research and put in the effort to apply and see the process through. Good luck!