Dual Citizenship USA

From as early as the second millennium B.C., traveling documents that were issued on the frontiers of Egypt indicated that traveling through these areas was controlled. In the United States, sheets of paper that were valid for a period of time and containing a description of the bearer served as the first type of document used for regulating travel during the War for Independence (1775-83). It was not until 1921 that passports as legal documents were officially used for controlling the US border. Before then, passports were not a requirement for American born citizens, while naturalized citizens had to give up their original passports. Foreign born naturalized Americans were only able to keep their passports in 1906.

Back then, though it may have not been constitutionally recognized, dual citizenship or dual nationality was already in existence. The need to protect, preserve and improve the quality of one’s life by acquiring a second nationality or having permanent residence in another country was already evident. While the advantages of dual citizenship were already defined, there was much concern in regards to the loyalty of American naturalized citizens, particularly that of the Irish-Americans during the Mexican and Civil wars, and German-Americans during World War I, when thousands of German-born immigrants settled in the U.S. and acquired dual citizenship without declaring their nationality.

In order to curtail the increasing numbers of European women who traveled to the U.S to give birth to American babies who automatically acquired American citizenship, in 1940, children born in the United States who remained for over six months in a foreign country where they or their parents were nationals were considered to have expatriated themselves, while a naturalized American lost his US citizenship after six months if he lived in the country where he or one of his parents was born.

As a social phenomenon, dual citizenship, however, cannot be easily avoided since there is no uniform rule of international law existing that relates to the acquisition of a first or second citizenship. Furthermore, each country has its own nationality laws and grants its citizenship according to its own domestic policy. The fact that the United States has had a very rich history and ethnic background which has always given way to the integration of foreign citizens into its territory can also be regarded as one of the major factors contributing to the acquisition of dual citizenship.

In this regard, the United States has also always been at the forefront in granting the right to nationality by virtue of place of birth ever since the concept of jus soli was adopted with the 14th Amendment in 1868. Even then, the children of slaves born on American soil automatically became US citizens and were emancipated. People from acquired lands such as Florida, Louisiana, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Michigan were also automatically granted American citizenship and or became naturalized Americans such as in the case of Alaska and Hawaii.

Today, thousands of people are able to access American citizenship through permanent residency in the US, which is granted by the issuing of a Permanent Resident Card, very commonly known as a Green Card, which gives official immigration status of Lawful Permanent residency in the US. An alien relative who resides in a country that is part of the Hague Convention can also obtain US permanent residency before he or she turns 16 through the filing process of petition 1-130 by an adopted parent or relative who legally resides in the US. In event that there are several alien relatives involved, a separate form must be filed for each eligible relative who must wait until there is a visa number available before an application for an immigrant visa can be presented on their behalf.

Though granting American permanent residency and US naturalization seem to be quite a vibrant part of the USA’s legal system, given the disadvantages and objections made against dual citizenship, the U.S. State Department does not explicitly accept it as a policy and rather tolerates it, due to the fact that dual citizenship “is a status long recognized in the law”.

Some of the objections that have been raised against dual citizenship, as persons may use it as an instrument for evading and avoiding taxes by acquiring the nationality of countries with lower tax rates, many argue that the symbolic meaning of citizenship is lost as the sense of commitment to only country does not exist, while it encourages the competition of interests among countries when they are required to protect and assist their citizens abroad on the diplomatic level.


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