Law & Legal & Attorney Human rights

Define Dual Citizenship

    Dual Citizenship By Birth

    • Some people become dual citizens by happenstance. If a child of United States citizens is born in a foreign country, that child is a citizen of the U.S. Depending on the laws of the foreign country, the child may also become a citizen of the country of birth or may acquire that country's citizenship by right of birth.

      In other cases, a child born to an American parent and a parent of another nationality may have rights to claim both nationalities.

      Holding both citizenships is permissible under U.S. law. In some cases---particularly when a child is born in a foreign country---the dual citizenship may be unavoidable because both countries claim the child.

    Citizenship By Marriage

    • An American citizen can marry a foreign national and through marriage automatically acquire foreign nationality. Provided the U.S. citizen does not specifically relinquish his or her U.S. citizenship, the dual nationality is legal.


    • An immigrant to the United States who chooses to become a naturalized citizen may not specifically relinquish citizenship from her former country. Even more, the former country may not allow its nationals to terminate citizenship. In these cases, a dual citizenship exists and this is legal under U.S. law.

    Conflicting Allegiance

    • One of the bigger problems with dual citizenship is that one person has allegiances to two countries. Sometimes the two countries have conflicting laws or requirements and the dual national may be caught in the middle.

      In such instances, the general rule is that the person is more allied to the country in which he resides.

      Another potential problem may be required or even voluntary military service. If a dual citizen serves in her foreign country's military, it is acceptable to the United States so long as the foreign country is not engaged in conflict with the U.S. and that the citizen does not intend to relinquish U.S. citizenship. However, if the military service is seen as being at odds or lacking allegiance to the U.S., the dual national may lose his or her American citizenship.

    Loss of Dual Citizenship

    • Several things may cause a dual citizen to lose his American citizenship, including formally renouncing citizenship before a U.S. consular officer, serving in the armed forces of a foreign state engaged in hostilities with the United States, taking a policy level position in a foreign government, and being convicted of treason.

      The United States also has an open-ended clause for acts "accompanied by conduct which is so inconsistent with retention of U.S. citizenship that it compels a conclusion that the individual intended to relinquish U.S. citizenship."

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