If you were born outside the United States to parents who are U.S. citizens, or if you are an immigrant who is having a child in the United States, you may be wondering about dual citizenship. Does the U.S. honor dual nationalities? How does that work?
Dual nationality means that someone is a citizen of two countries at the same time. However, we must remember that each country has its own nationality laws, so no two nationality policies are the same. When someone has dual nationality, they are automatically subject to the laws of two nations and not necessarily by choice.
For example, if a child is born outside the United States to U.S. national parents because the child’s family was living abroad due to the father’s enlistment in U.S. Army, the child may be a national of the foreign country (of birth) where the father was stationed andthe United States. Or, if someone is a national by birth in one country, at a later date they may naturalize in another country so they have dual nationalities.
What U.S. Law Says About Dual Nationality
Under U.S. law, people are not required to choose one nationality over another. For example, if you’re a U.S. citizen and you wish to naturalize in a foreign country, the U.S. would not force you to give up your U.S. citizenship. However, if you wish to become a citizen in another country and you’re 18 or older, you have the right to relinquish your U.S. nationality if that’s what you wish.
According to travel.state.gov, the site says: “In order to relinquish U.S. nationality by virtue of naturalization as a citizen of a foreign state, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign nationality voluntarily and with the intention to relinquish U.S. nationality.”
If someone is a dual national, they owe their allegiance to the United States and the other country. Meaning, they must obey the laws of both countries and both countries can enforce their laws upon the person.
Related: The Path to U.S. Citizenship