What is Dual Nationality?
Dual nationality (aka dual citizenship) means that a person is a national of two (2) countries, having legal rights and obligations in connection with both countries*. While there may be advantages to holding dual nationality, such as ease of foreign residency and access to government programs, dual nationals should understand the legal considerations that can make life and international travel more complicated.
*A person may hold more than two nationalities, and the same guidance generally applies.
How to obtain Dual Nationality
There are several ways of acquiring a second citizenship and the corresponding passport. These are birth, naturalisation, marriage and investment.
Some countries allow non-resident individuals to obtain citizenship if their parents were born in that country. For example, Hungary allows persons not living in the country to obtain Hungarian citizenship provided they can show in the application that their parents are citizens.
Naturalization is the process by which a resident of a country can acquire citizenship, usually by residing in that country for a certain number of years as a permanent resident. For example, permanent residents of Canada must reside in Canada for four out of six years in order to be eligible to apply for citizenship. Persons with temporary status, such as students and foreign workers, must first gain permanent resident status in order to start counting their years as residents toward the citizenship requirement.
It is important to double-check the requirements of your country of residence if you hope to acquire second citizenship through naturalization.
Some countries grant fast-track permanent resident status to individuals who have married a citizen of that country, thereby speeding up the time to citizenship. For example, Canada allows spousal sponsorship, which results in automatic permanent resident status for the foreign spouse.
More and more countries are offering citizenship by investment programs or residency by investment programs to high-net-worth investors. Citizenship by investment is the process of acquiring second citizenship by investing in the economy of the host country. Residency by investment programs offers permanent residency after the investment, which again speeds up the time to citizenship.
There are many benefits to being a dual national, from the quality of living to global mobility.
A second passport from a stable country can be life-saving in the event of any kind of political, economic or social unrest in one’s home country.
Many passports are quite restrictive in their visa-free mobility, forcing citizens to obtain visas whenever they need to travel abroad. A second passport can offer individuals from these countries increased global mobility.
New business opportunities open up to dual citizens as they can now do business in the host country as well as travel abroad more freely.
⚠️ As a dual citizen, you are bound by the laws of both countries. While it can vary from country to country, a government’s policy can recognize that dual citizens might be legally obligated to fulfil military service obligations abroad, and many can do so without jeopardising their citizen status. It is however important to research each situation carefully. Some countries which may require dual nationals to undertake military service include:
Additionally, in countries like the United States, if you are a citizen of the U.S. and a country with mandatory military service, you can lose your U.S. citizenship under certain circumstances, such as if you serve as an officer in a foreign military that is engaged in a war against the U.S^.
^ U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs - here.
Individuals who are dual citizens may be subject to taxes on their citizens for income earned anywhere in the world. If you are living in your country of dual residence, you may owe taxes both to that government and to the country where the income was earned. Dual citizens may be required to file tax returns even if they are living and earning income in another country.
Because tax laws are complicated and can change from year to year, it is important for individuals to consult a qualified tax accountant.
Depending on your career path, dual citizenship can be a disadvantage. If you are seeking a position with the government or your job requires access to information that is considered classified by that government, having dual citizenship may bar you from gaining the security clearance you need for this type of employment. Those born into dual citizenship may encounter fewer problems than those who actively sought it out.
Dual nationals can have limited consular protection during distress or emergencies, when present in their citizenship country, during emergencies. For example, if you are arrested in a country where you are already a citizen, the second country cannot help you.
This is because dual citizenship holders may have limited diplomatic protection according to the principle set forth by the 1930 Hague Convention that a state may not afford diplomatic protection to one of its nationals against a state whose nationality such person also possesses.
It is even worse when dual citizenship is not recognised by one country. Examples:
It is impossible to seek consular protection from the United States embassy in Japan for a Japanese/American dual national.
If you hold both British and Chinese citizenship you cannot get diplomatic help from the United Kingdom when in China.
Why do you need consular assistance?
Lost or stolen passport or ID card – The embassy can issue emergency travel documents.
Serious accident or illness – Embassy Staff may contact family or friends back home for you if you end up in the hospital.
Mugging or serious assault – Someone from the embassy may come with you to the police station.
Death – Staff may help notify next of kin and help you register a death.
Your arrest or detention – The embassy may provide information on the local legal system, or help you find a lawyer.
Relief and repatriation in case of an emergency – For example in case of a natural disaster or civil unrest or disease epidemic.
Discover more Dual Nationality at the following sites:
🇳🇿 New Zealand
General Travel Advice Disclaimer - here.