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US: Dual nationality - some caveats



A long time ago, WAIS went into the question of citizenship. The outcome is this: in practice, the US recognizes dual citizenship by in fact getting around the oath of allegiance taken by all who become US citizens. It begins: "I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen...." In view of this simple fact, I hesitate to bring up the issue again, but in view of Paul Simon's experience, I post this statement by him without in any way withdrawing the above:

"The US recognizes dual nationality but we have to remind everyone: Naturally, that's no guarantee at the other end. Dual citizenship is illegal in many countries, as you have correctly noted. Jus Sanguinis sometimes takes precedence, other nations are concerned with the very factors you have raised in the past. Any WAISer with two passports would be well advised to check with both his/her countries' governments and make sure it is OK. If not, the person should probably choose, and renounce one. I have seen Chinese-Americans keep their PRC passports after naturalizing in the States. China does NOT recognize dual nationality. I have seen the same folks occasionally use their uncancelled PRC passport to enter China. Later, getting into legal difficulties here, they have claimed US citizenship. Unfortunately, the Chinese government isn't sympathetic.

Renunciation, for Americans, involves surrendering passports and taking a very solemn oath after a stern warning that the process is irrevocable. When I worked in the American Citizen Services section of our Embassy in Seoul some years back, I would process several renunciations per week. My boss had to completely retrain me before I did my first one: Usually, Americans renounce US nationality so rarely that it's not a section of Consular training that gets much emphasis. Unfortunately for Korean-Americans, the ROK at that time did not allow foreigners to own property. Many ethnic Koreans born in the US found they could not inherit a family home or business unless they renounced US citizenship and claimed ROK nationality. Even ROK citizens who held US "green cards" paid a higher property tax rate on their holdings in the ROK!

Citizenship Law has changed many times in the USA. Most recently and notably in 1952 and again in the 70's. The statutes, like all statutes, are also affected by the body of jurisprudence (court rulings). A good example of this is Involuntary Loss of Nationality. On the books, there are a number of actions which can cost one his US citizenship. For instance, going to work for a foreign government in many capacities, leaving the United States permanently within a short period of naturalizing, etc. However, court rulings have almost invariably restored stripped nationality and thus little short of treason or taking up arms against America would likely even lead to an attempt to strip someone's nationality away. Transmission of citizenship by US Citizen parents is an equally if not even more complex issue, if the child is not born on US soil.

Any WAISer who wants to know more might contact State's Consular Affairs Bureau or the INS. Both have really GOOD websites. Start hunting at www.ins.doj.gov or www.state.gov".

My question: International law will have to clear up this mess, but will the US sign any treaty? Probably not, just as the US refuses to adopt the metric system. Long live confusion! We will muddle through!

Ronald Hilton - 5/18/02


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