What is Dual Citizenship?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Dual citizenship is a form of citizenship status in which someone is a citizen of two nations. It is a possibility for someone to hold multiple citizenship, in which he or she is a citizen of more than two nations. Not all nations permit dual citizenship, and there are certain legal issues which many dual citizens are forced to tangle with, ranging from pressure to surrender their passports to the possibility of being taxed twice.

Someone might gain dual citizenship by taking a citizenship test.
Someone might gain dual citizenship by taking a citizenship test.

There are a number of ways in which someone can gain dual citizenship. Many nations grant citizenship jus sanguinis, or “through the blood,” which means that a child will have the citizenship of his or her parents. Many also offer citizenship jus soli, “through the soil,” so someone will have citizenship in the nation he or she is born in. If a child of French parents is born in the United States, for example, the child would have citizenship in the United States and France. It is also possible to become a citizen through naturalization, in which case the new citizen might choose to retain his or her original citizenship, becoming a dual citizen.

From the point of view of national governments, dual citizenship is a hassle because it could set up a situation in which a citizen has conflicting loyalties. In our example above, if the United States and France went to war, the citizen might feel conflicted. He or she could refuse military service in a draft, on the grounds that taking arms against either country would be an act of treason. The dual citizen might also be caught between the systems of taxation used in both countries, and forced to pay taxes to the French and American government.

Dual citizenship can also become an issue when someone runs afoul of the legal system. Many governments offer protections to their citizens while they are overseas, but a government may find its hands tied in the case of a dual citizen. A Mexican-Egyptian citizen, for example, could not count on protections from the Egyptian government if he or she got into trouble in Mexico. Dual citizens may also be refused security clearances, making it difficult for them to work for the government.

Some governments flatly refuse to allow dual citizenship, insisting that their citizens not hold citizenship in any other nation. Naturalized citizens who achieve citizenship will be expected to give up their prior citizenship, and the government will ignore proof of citizenship from other nations. Other nations simply strongly discourage dual citizenship, and there have been some documented instances in which new citizens have been pressured into giving up their old citizenship by overzealous officials.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I am 30 years old and I was born in USA. My parents are Egyptian. I lived my whole life in Egypt. Can I now submit the requested papers to get the American citizenship, or have I lost it?


I hear someone say today that one automatically loses "dual" citizenship at the age of 21. is that correct?

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