Back to Index

UNITED STATES: Dual citizenship



I brought up the question of dual citizenship again because it has become a major issue again. Too bad. When we looked into it carefully some time ago, we concluded that it was strictly illegal in the US, but the law is simply overlooked. Paul Simon of the State Department gives us his professional opinion: "Dual Citizenship is neither strictly legal nor strictly illegal. It depends on which countries are involved. If both recognize dual nationality, it's strictly legal. For instance, it is strictly possible to be a British-American. If one country doesn't recognize the right, it's not legal. For instance, you can't be a Japanese-American, Koran-American, Chinese-American. As any US INS officer or FSO can tell you, citizenship law is phenomenally complex and varies widely from country to country. Some nations let one simply buy nationality. Some confer by "blood", others by place of birth. Usually, there is some combination. Some countries allow naturalization, others don't. In some, like the USA, it may also depend on when certain things happened, as laws have changed. When Us consular officers get trained, after they visit the morgue (remember that story), they continue their study of overseas citizen services by studying citizenship law. Well do I remember exam questions like: A person is born in Hawaii in 1898, is she a citizen? Can someone born in American Samoa vote? A man is born overseas to a US mother and foreign father in 1969. Is he a citizen and can he pass US citizenship to his children?

The issue of divided loyalties is a legal one as well as a philisophical one. Which passport is correctly used when? What about military service? What if the two countries are at war? What about extradition? It does boggle the mind..."

My comment: Things change constantly. Germany is in the process of changing from jus snaguinis to jus soli. I believe that when a foreigner is naturalized, he still has to foreswear allegiance to any foreign power, and that serving in a foreign army may lead to cancellation of US citizenship. The EU is considering European citizenship. Will that clarify this mess or make it messier? What about Mexican-American dual citizenship? That opens up a can of votes. Mexicans will be able to vote in both countries. There is no Chinese-American dual citizenship, but there is a Chinese-American lobby. Ever more mind-boggling.

Ronald Hilton - 1/23/02


Webmaster