Dual citizenship arises when a person holds two or more citizenships simultaneously.
Is US dual citizenship allowed?
According to Section 101(a) (22) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), US citizens are also US nationals. The United States Supreme Court struck down most laws forbidding dual citizenship in 1967. Nowhere in US law is it now mentioned that a person of dual nationality has to choose between one citizenship and the other, meaning that although it does not formally recognize dual citizenship, the United States poses no restrictions on dual citizenship. US dual citizenship is therefore permitted. US dual citizens enjoy full benefits of US citizenship and citizenship of the foreign country. US dual citizens are fully entitled to the rights granted by their foreign citizenship, including the right to vote in the foreign country’s national election and running for public office in the foreign country. US dual citizens also owe allegiance to the US, as well as to the foreign country, and therefore they are bound and subject to the laws in both countries.
Same as is required of other regular US nationals, US dual nationals must use a US passport to enter and leave the United States. When travelling across countries other than the US, however, US dual nationals are able to use their foreign passport should they wish to.
US Dual Citizenship Taxation
The US subjects its citizens to citizenship-based taxation, meaning that US dual citizens living in the country of their foreign nationality are subjected to taxes on their worldwide income from both countries. Upon applying for and acquiring a foreign citizenship after the age of 18, US citizenship of a certain person may be relinquished if this is desired by the individual. The is permitted only if the individual applies for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, and if the intention to renounce the US citizenship is clearly shown in the person’s statements and conduct.
Acquiring US dual citizenship – for US citizens
A US citizen may obtain a foreign citizenship without any risk of losing his/her US citizenship, and vice-versa, at least as far as US law is concerned (limitations may be imposed from the foreign country issuing citizenship or the origin country of a foreign citizen applying for US citizenship).
US dual citizenship for individuals who are originally US citizens may be acquired in several ways, including:
Also known as the principle of ius soli or the law of the soil. An individual may be entitled to the citizenship of a foreign country if born within said country’s territory. A child born to at least one US parent in a foreign country may therefore acquire a foreign citizenship or US dual citizenship. Conditions of acquiring citizenship in a foreign territory by birth vary according to each country.
Also known as the principle of ius sanguinis, which implies the inheritance of citizenship from parents or ancestry. A person born in the US to immigrant parent/s may therefore acquire US dual citizenship. This is subject to the laws regulating citizenship of the parent/s’ origin country. Different countries not only take separate approaches to citizenship by descent, but they may or may not allow dual citizenship.
Minors holding US citizenship may attain US dual citizenship if adopted by foreign citizens.
Certain countries offer an expedited citizenship-attainment process to foreigners who marry citizens of their country. A US citizen may therefore acquire US dual citizenship upon marrying a foreign citizen, subject to the country’s conditions.
A US citizen may acquire citizenship of a foreign country through the process of naturalisation, which varies according to each country. Naturalisation implies the granting of citizenship given that specific requirements laid down in the law are satisfied.
Citizenship by Investment Programmes
Several countries now offer naturalisation through citizenship by investment programmes. Essentially, these programmes may result in the granting of citizenship upon the fulfilment of specified investment and eligibility criteria. The significant benefits of investing in one of these programmes are highlighted further below.
Acquiring US dual citizenship – for foreign citizens
Foreign citizens may attain US dual citizenship in a number of ways, principally the following:
Ius soli is the primary basis for citizenship in the United States. The Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution holds that anyone born in the US is a US citizen.
Should an individual be born outside of US territory, but to at least one parent who holds US citizenship at the time of birth and has lived in the US prior to the birth, the child will automatically gain US citizenship through the process of acquisition. Further specifications can be found in US law.
Foreign citizens may also attain US dual citizenship through the process of naturalisation. Certain legal requirements need to be met in order to qualify for naturalisation:
Age: the applicant must be at least 18 years of age
Entry and residence: The applicant must enter the US lawfully and gain legal permanent resident status. Prior to applying for naturalisation, an applicant must hold the permanent resident status for at least five years, or alternatively, three years if the applicant has been married and living with a US citizen for the preceding three years, and the spouse has been a US citizen himself/herself for at least three years. During these five or three periods, the applicant must be physically present in the US for at least 50 percent of the time. In the 60 months before applying, an applicant must not have resided outside the US for a continuous period of six months or more.
Literacy and knowledge: Applicants must possess a basic working knowledge of the English language. They must also demonstrate knowledge on US history, government and politics, on which they will be evaluated in a naturalisation test.
Moral character: the applicant must demonstrate a good moral character which they maintained throughout their residence status in the US.
Foreign persons married to US citizens qualify for expedited naturalisation i.e. they qualify for naturalisation after three years of marriage provided that the legal permanent residency requirements within that period are met.
Children of a foreign nationality automatically acquire US citizenship according to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
Alternatives to US dual citizenship
US Immigrant Programmes
The US offers two particular investment routes which may appeal to business interests. The first is the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program which allows entrepreneurs, along with their spouses and unmarried children under 21 to apply for a US green card (permanent residence). Applicants are only eligible on the conditions that (i) a minimum of $1 million investment is made in a commercial enterprise in the US (lower thresholds may apply for specific conditions) and (ii) at least 10 permanent full-time jobs are created for American workers.
On the other hand, the EB-1C inter-corporate permanent green card option allows for the transferring of high-level managers or executives working abroad to U.S. entities of international companies, allowing them to assume permanent managerial or executive positions. In order to qualify, the high-level executives must satisfy a number of requirements.
US immigrant visa programmes have their own drawbacks, however. The EB-1C programme would not be suited to high-net-worth individuals with limited US business experience and who do not hold an executive position at a multinational company. Immigrants who apply through the EB-5 programme are then exposed to US taxation, meaning they would be subjected to worldwide taxation.
After five years of legal residence following the date of receipt of the conditional green card, immigrants may apply for US citizenship through naturalisation. While US dual citizenship does come with its benefits, the exposure to US taxation cannot be understated.
Nowadays, several citizenship by investment programmes (CBI) around the world boast of many of the appealing traits that attract investors to US citizenship in the first place but with less onerous obligations.
Successful citizenship by investment programmes include the likes of prestigious European programmes, such as those offered by Malta and Cyprus, which give successful applicants coveted access to the Schengen area as well as the ability to reside and do business anywhere within the EU. For applicants who prefer flexibility in investment options, acclaimed Caribbean citizenship by investment programmes are also available, namely those offered by St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and Dominica.
Among the enticing characteristics of attaining a dual citizenship through one of the citizenship by investment programmes, there are the following:
Facilitated travel: Attaining citizenship in a country with an extensive list of visa-free access countries can considerably widen mobility options for high-net-worth individuals who routinely face visa restrictions based on their country of original citizenship. This enhanced mobility would serve as a treasured asset both for the smooth operation of business transactions and for personal-motivated travel. Apart from granting visa-free travel to the business hub which is the Schengen area, US visa-free access can also be attained depending on the choice of citizenship by investment programme.
Tax benefits: The different jurisdictions which offer citizenship by investment programmes all offer their own tax incentives to prospective investors, which would allow them to better safeguard and maximise their wealth, particularly in a way that the attainment of US citizenship would not. Fiscal benefits may include exemption of taxation on foreign income, wealth, inheritance, gifts, or capital gains as is allowed in Antigua, or the highly-attractive remittance based taxation offered by Malta.
Personal Security: For high-net-worth individuals that originate from politically or economically unstable countries, investing in a citizenship by investment programme can prove to be particularly invaluable as it offers an unparalleled peace of mind. By attaining dual citizenship in a relatively short period of time, investors can conveniently evade fall-outs in their personal and business lives in times of conflict, political turmoil, local economic recession or environmental catastrophes.
Better quality of life: By investing in one of the CBI programmes, main applicants and their families can enjoy a life which they had only dreamed of in their choice of country. Furthermore, if an applicant were to invest in one of the European programmes, any country in the EU may serve as their living and business destination. Investors can also benefit from excellent levels of healthcare and education, while also passing down this lifestyle to future generations.