Dual Citizenship FAQ http://www.richw.org/dualcit/

US State Department
policies on
dual citizenship

Last revised: 2011-01-03 18:53:04-0800

3 January 2011


Due to increasing demands on my time and energy, I will no longer be actively maintaining the material on this site. Instead, I will be putting my efforts into improving the coverage of dual citizenship issues on Wikipedia.

I have already done considerable work on the Wikipedia articles about U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, Afroyim v. Rusk, and Vance v. Terrazas. My longer-term goal is to raise the level and quality of coverage of this subject on Wikipedia to the point where I can convert my FAQ site into a portal pointing to Wikipedia articles and other source material.

Additionally, I will no longer be able to take the time to answer questions sent to me by e-mail. If you have a specific problem or question regarding dual citizenship, I would advise you to find a knowledgeable and experienced immigration lawyer (sorry, no, I don't have any specific person in mind to refer you to), or look for online discussion groups where you can ask your questions.

(Please note that the "discussion" or "talk" pages associated with Wikipedia articles are intended for use by editors working on the content of the articles. Please do not use Wikipedia talk pages as discussion forums to ask questions about citizenship or immigration issues.)

This page discusses various documents distributed by the State Department on the subject of dual citizenship and loss of citizenship. Several documents of this type can be found at http://travel.state.gov/law/acs.html on the State Department's Web site.

Acquisition of US Citizenship by a Child Born Abroad

This document describes the criteria under which a child born outside the US is a US citizen by birth.

With regard to a child born outside the US to two American parents who are married to one another, this State Department document fails to mention the requirement that at least one parent must have "had a residence" in the US prior to the child's birth. This requirement is still a part of the law [INA 301(c), 8 USC § 1401(c)].

Click here for a description of the sorts of documents needed in order to establish a claim to US citizenship.

Dual Nationality

This document summarizes the concepts surrounding dual citizenship and US policy on this subject.

Note that the kinds of concerns expressed here over dual citizenship have to do with problems dual citizens may encounter in other countries and the difficulties US diplomats may have trying to help dual US/other citizens abroad. There is no suggestion that the US has any objections if someone really wants to keep both US and foreign citizenship.

Advice about Possible Loss of US Citizenship and Dual Nationality

This document explains the current US policy on the retention and loss of US citizenship in connection with dual citizenship. The text of this document was originally sent by the State Department to all diplomatic and consular posts via telegrams on 16 April 1990; see 67 Interpreter Releases 799 (23 July 1990) and 67 Interpreter Releases 1092 (1 October 1990).

Notice the emphasis on keeping US citizenship following foreign naturalization or the taking of a foreign oath of allegiance. This represents a near-total reversal of earlier policies which assumed such actions were strongly indicative of a desire to give up US citizenship.

Also, persons who previously lost US citizenship may, if they wish, have their cases reopened and readjudicated under the new, far more permissive rules. I have corresponded, within the past couple of years, with at least two individuals who regained their US citizenship in this manner after having had it revoked in the 1970's.

In the 1990 telegram, the State Department explained the new policy in the following words: "Changes in interpretation of citizenship law have made [loss of citizenship] cases progressively more difficult to manage. . . . [I]n the past, we have responded to this challenge with more officer time, closer supervision and extra training. At this point, however, we must look to substantial changes in the process if we are to provide equitable, timely and defensible decisions."

On 8 May 1996, I sent the US consulate in Toronto a letter indicating that my wife and I were in the process of applying for Canadian citizenship (but without intending thereby to give up our US citizenship) and asking for confirmation of the US's current policy on dual citizenship. In response, the consulate mailed us a copy of this document, with no cover letter or other explanatory notes.

Click here for a description of special considerations involving US citizens who seek or obtain public office in foreign countries.

Advice about Possible Loss of US Citizenship and Foreign Military Service

This document describes the US policy on dual US/other citizens who serve (voluntarily or otherwise) in the military forces of other countries.

Note that, although such service is strongly discouraged by the US, it is recognized as being inevitable in some cases because of mandatory military service policies of other countries. In general, a dual US/other citizen who serves in the army of his other country of citizenship will not lose his US citizenship as a result.

Renunciation of US citizenship

This document describes the conditions under which a US citizen who really wants to give up his US citizenship may do so.

Click here for a discussion of situations where a US citizen wishes to renounce his citizenship while continuing to live in the US. In general, this is not permitted except in rare situations.

Citizenship questionnaire

At one time, a questionnaire was given to US citizens when consular officials became aware of a possible dual citizenship situation -- e.g., when the person sought to renew his or her US passport following acquisition of another citizenship. It appears that this questionnaire is no longer routinely used, but it may still be of some interest.

The intent of one question may not be immediately obvious. Question 6 (which asks an applicant born with dual US/other citizenship if he claimed benefits of his other citizenship between 1952 and 1978) refers to a section of the INA [section 350; 8 USC § 1482] which said that claiming such benefits could in certain cases result in loss of US citizenship. Even though this section was repealed in 1978 (Public Law 95-432), some people born with dual citizenship may still have lost their US citizenship before that time on account of this provision. The repeal did not automatically restore the citizenship of those affected; however, depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to get it back in light of the State Department's current reinstatement policy. Note that reinstatement of citizenship under such circumstances may involve taking the US naturalization oath, including the renunciatory clause. Depending on the laws of your other country, taking this oath may have adverse effects on your citizenship status in that country; check this out carefully before doing something you might regret later.

Go back to previous section (Court rulings on dual citizenship)

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