Second Passport - Citizenship and Dual Citizenship
Shedding Light on the Laws and the Dilemmas
Many U.S. citizens wonder as to whether a person can be a citizen of more than one nation and hold two passports, a status known as "dual citizenship."
The answer to this question is "Yes". Many nations, including the U.S., allow dual citizenship and it still does not affect a person's original national legal status. Many people are entitled automatically by law to dual citizenship. Second passports can be obtained as a matter of right, if individuals have ancestors born in countries such as Ireland, Italy or even the UK. If they can afford it, immediate citizenship can be obtained (albeit, at a rather high price) from two nations that are still selling them, the Commonwealth of Dominica or St. Kitts and Nevis, both of which are located in the Caribbean.
In general, countries define citizenship based on one's descent, place of birth, marriage, and/or naturalization. Since there can be several ways to acquire a given country's citizenship, it is possible for someone to be considered a citizen under the laws of two (or more) countries at the same time. This is what is meant by dual (or multiple) citizenship.
This means a person may be a citizen of a given country for one or more of the following reasons:
•A person is born on territory belonging to or claimed by that country often called ius soli or jus soli which is Latin for “right for the soil.”
•One or both of the parents were citizens of that country often called ius sanguinis or ius sanguinis which is Latin for “right for the blood.”
•A person marries a citizen of that country.
•A person goes through a process of legalizing the citizenship, called naturalization.
As a rule, countries passively ignore other countries claims on its citizens and dual citizens are not entitled to any sort of special treatment by their two countries of citizenship. Each country will usually consider the person as if he were a citizen of that country alone. Some people describe this sort of situation by saying that a given country does not recognize dual citizenship.
The details required for citizenship are specific to the laws of the country. Citizenship frequently carries with it legal obligations relating to taxes, military service, and/or travel restrictions. For example in the US ius sanguinis requires parents to live on US soil for a period of before a foreign-born child is a citizen.
The average thought floating around society is that if your are born there, you have the right to citizenship on that soil, but not so fast! Many countries, such as Switzerland, do not confer citizenship via ius soli (meaning born on that soil) at all, and those which do generally make exceptions for children of foreign diplomats. Unbelievably, the United States Is also a country where ius soli is not an automatic claim to citizenship.
The United States statutes on immigration and citizenship are codified in the Immigration and Nationality Act referred to commonly as the INA, found in Title 8 of the United States Code (8 USC). However, this code is not the authority and Title 8 is only a guideline to what has been enacted as “positive law.” This means that the citation and case precedent does not always correspond with the Title section.
As if this isn’t confusing enough, the US makes a distinction between “citizenship” and “nationality.” All US citizens are US nationals, but not all US nationals are US citizens. The term “national” is defined as “a person who though not a citizen of the US, owes permanent allegiance to the US.”
In the US children born to tourists, and even to illegal aliens, are US citizens by birth. If you watch the emerging politics in the media this is under attack by some lawmakers as to become a more restrictive grant of citizenship. However, in the US Supreme Court’s ruling in U.S. v. Wong Kim and Afroyim v. Rusk, it is unlikely that this will be changed due to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. This precedent is suspected so strong, that the fight of the opposition will rival that of Roe v. Wade.
It is possible to be born outside the US and be granted citizenship of the US depending on whether one or both parents have US citizenship along with a myriad of other stipulations. Since the laws are ever changing, the dates of birth and the date of applications have great implication on the results.
Under the current law, if both parents are US citizens and are married, then the child is a US citizen if either parent had a "residence" in the US at any time in his or her life prior to the child's birth. There is no specific minimum period of time in the law for how long a parent must have been in the US in order for his/her status to be accepted as having been "residence" in the US.
If one parent is a US citizen, and the other is not, and the parents are married, the current law states the child is a US citizen. This is if the American parent was physically present in the US for one or more periods of time, totaling at least five years, at some time or times in his or her life prior to (but not necessarily immediately prior to) the child's birth. Additionally, at least two years out the required five years of physical presence must have taken place after the parent's 14th birthday; thus, for example, a parent who was born and grew up in the US, but who left before reaching age 16 and never returned, doesn't meet the requirement.
Prior to November14, 1986 the physical presence requirement was ten years instead of the five (other requirements also), but Congress did not intend to make this change retroactive. This point is made in reference to the comment that timing of birth, application and domicile is a deciding factor in citizenship in every country. Note also that physical presence does not require residence in the US. Time spent on vacation may also count. This point is made to emphasize that any person wanting to claim dual citizenship must carefully document almost every day of their life pending application. This is done by affidavit.
Countries usually frame their citizenship laws with little or no regard for the citizenship laws of other countries. Some nations demand that foreign nationals seeking citizenship formally renounce their original national allegiance. That was once U.S. law, but the Supreme Court reversed it. Immigrants from the U.S. can and do retain their original citizenship, if they wish to do so. Since 1998, Mexico's constitution has allowed dual citizenship, conferring that status on thousands of Mexican Americans, either born in the U.S. or naturalized as U.S. citizens, and on their descendants.
Some, but, again no in all cases, countries will automatically revoke the citizenship of one of its citizens who acquires another country's citizenship by naturalization, even if no explicit renunciation was involved.
Where one country requires a citizen to renounce the citizenship of another country, this renunciation may or may not be acknowledged or accepted by the other country. This can sometimes lead to sticky legal situations. Countries that require such renunciations differ in how seriously they treat this requirement. In some cases, such as Singapore, an applicant for naturalization may be required by his new country to go to an embassy or consulate of his old country and renounce his old citizenship in a manner prescribed by his old country's laws. Other countries, such as the US in recent years, may treat their own naturalization oaths' as essentially meaningless and take no steps to enforce it at all.
Citizenship frequently carries with it legal obligations relating to taxes, military service, and/or travel restrictions. Since countries usually insist on dealing with their citizens without regard to any other citizenships a dual citizen could possibly find that a country which considers him a citizen, but in which he does not live, expects him to pay taxes in addition to taxes he is already paying in his country of residence.
Many people think that military service grants rights towards citizenship. A person defending a country at war has no automatic claim to citizenship. This is very misunderstood and is often a newsworthy subject in today’s media. A country that considers a person to be liable to be drafted into its army (even if he has already served or is currently serving in the other country's army), may also forbid him to travel to certain countries, including possibly his other country of citizenship.
In practice, such situations are often smoothed over via tax treaties and the like, but conflicts could (and sometimes do) occur. Also, be aware that most countries (the US is the main exception) base liability for income tax on residence (where one lives) and/or source of income, not solely on citizenship; thus, dual citizenship usually does not automatically translate into double taxation.
Citizenship claims by a country over a given individual could happen even if the person in question never sought recognition as a citizen of that country, or even if the person was totally unaware that he/she was a citizen of that country according to its laws. Accordingly, anyone who is planning to travel to an ancestral homeland, even for a brief vacation trip,would be strongly advised to check that country's citizenship laws carefully beforehand.
On the other hand, dual citizenship can have distinct advantages. In particular, a person with dual citizenship has greater flexibility in his or her choice of where to live and work. Thus, it behooves anyone with dual or multiple citizenship -- or with the possibility of claiming such a status -- to investigate the pros and cons of the specific situation very carefully.
Aside from lower taxation, there can be a number of compelling reasons for becoming a dual national. For example, if someone is fortunate enough to acquire citizenship in one of the countries belonging to the EU, they gain the right to live and do business in any of 25 EU countries. Dual citizenship is something that is worth considering, at least in the context of estate, financial and retirement planning. It can be very useful for those who are engaged in offshore business travel or are living abroad.
The extensive use of passports for international travel really only took hold less than a century ago, after World War I. Restrictions on immigration and efforts to exclude so-called "foreigners" and refugees prompted the supposed need for much stricter IDs and travel documents.
However, after the many terror attacks, especially those here in the U.S. on September 11, 2001, the U.S. and other governments are using passports as a major means for people to prove their individual identity, both of their own citizens, and for foreign visitors. The U.S. government currently keeps a computerized record of every exit and entry a U.S. passport holder makes with a list of nations visited. The government also uses secret travel "watch lists" for suspected terrorists, a tactic that many people criticize as being illegal.
Projected high tech passports eventually may contain the bearer's DNA, blood type and scans of the iris in his eyes. Tied to a network of official computers, this biometric information will track the passport owner's every movement. Furthermore, these passports also may be used as national ID cards.
Early this year, the U.S. began issuing passports containing RFIDs, small radio chips that broadcast information about the holder to government computers at national entry points that is checked against databases. Another restrictive development is the official denial of passports for what the U.S. government considers wrong conduct. For instance, any parent who is in arrears for $5000 or more in child support may have their passport suspended.
If you are thinking of acquiring a dual passport, you had better hurry since these days may be your last chance. Regulations, policies and laws may in the future end the dual passport era Complications are inescapable and therefore common sense would advise you to seek professional help in the expertise of citizenship before acting.
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