What is dual citizenship?
Dual citizenship — or dual nationality — means being a citizen of two countries simultaneously and sharing the rights and responsibilities of the citizens in each country. Not every country allows dual citizenship, and the rules vary among those that do.
Does the United States allow dual citizenship?
Yes, practically speaking. The U.S. government does not require naturalized U.S. citizens to relinquish citizenship in their country of origin. Although the Oath of Allegiance to the United States speaks of renouncing “allegiance and fidelity” to other nations, U.S. immigration law does not explicitly address the topic of dual citizenship. The best summarization of the U.S. government’s position on dual citizenship lies in a U.S. Supreme Court opinion, which explains that “a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both.” The U.S. Department of State also has a more technical discussion of dual citizenship.
Just because the United States allows dual citizenship, however, doesn’t necessarily mean your country of origin does, too. Some countries, such as China and India, will not recognize your status as a naturalized American on their soil. You may even lose your citizenship automatically in those countries upon becoming a U.S. citizen. It’s therefore important to understand the dual citizenship rules in your country of origin before pursuing U.S. citizenship.
In this guide, you will learn:
- The rights and responsibilities of dual citizens in the United States
- How to get dual citizenship
- The dual citizenship rules of various countries
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Having U.S. citizenship, in addition to citizenship in another country, provides many advantages that could help you meet certain goals. It’s important to be aware, however, of the obligations you would be taking on as a naturalized American. (Our detailed guide to the rights and duties of U.S. citizens also has more information for those who seek only U.S. citizenship, not dual citizenship.)
Rights of dual citizens in the United States
You can work anywhere. You can apply for employment anywhere in the United States without first obtaining a work visa. As a dual citizen, however, you could be overlooked for certain federal jobs, which often require a security clearance and the ability to maintain confidentiality of classified state information. That could be a challenge if you’re also loyal to a nation that has conflicting interests with the United States.
You can travel without restrictions. You can travel abroad for as long as you’d like without any risk of losing your U.S. citizenship. And if you plan to stay outside of the United States for longer than a year, you won’t need a re-entry permit in order to return, as is the case for green card holders (permanent residents).
You can obtain green cards for your family. Your parents, adult children, and siblings can apply for their own green cards.
You can vote. You can vote in any U.S. election. In the United States, only citizens are allowed to vote in federal elections.
You can attend school. You can enroll in a U.S. school without a student visa and without paying international student tuition rates.
You can access public benefits, if necessary. Assuming you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for public benefits, including access to tuition assistance that’s available only to U.S. citizens.
Obligations of dual citizens in the United States
You must pay U.S. taxes for life. As a U.S. citizen, you must file (and pay, if necessary) U.S. income and other taxes for life — even for income you earn outside of the United States — regardless of where you live. This means that you could owe taxes on the same income to both the United States and to your other country of citizenship unless that country has an agreement with the United States that allows dual citizens to avoid “double taxation.”
You must disclose any previous encounters with law enforcement. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers who evaluate citizenship applications scrutinize to applicants’ backgrounds very heavily. Certain types of violations, such as immigration fraud, drug abuse, or domestic violence, could expose you to the possibility of deportation. If you’re concerned about your history with law enforcement, it’s important to seek legal help before applying for naturalization.
You must serve in the military if required by law. All males who have lived in the United States or received a green card between the ages of 18 and 26 — unless they had an immigration status other than “green card holder” — are required to register with the Selective Service System. In case of war, a U.S. citizen must serve in the U.S. military (in combat or otherwise) if called upon to do so by the government.
You must serve on a jury when summoned. Jury duty is mandatory for all U.S. citizens. You may not necessarily need to serve, however. The judge and attorneys in a legal proceeding must select you as a jury panelist in order to actually serve. The selection process happens after you are summoned to court.
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How can I obtain dual citizenship in the United States?
There is no application or form available to file for “dual citizenship” in the United States. Obtaining dual citizenship simply means applying for a second citizenship.
Before you apply for U.S. citizenship as your second citizenship status, it’s crucial to contact the embassy or consulate of your country of origin to find out whether that country allows dual citizenship in the first place. Otherwise, you may lose your citizenship in that country without knowing.
Once you’ve determined that your country of origin will recognize your U.S. citizenship status, you will need to make sure you’ve satisfied all naturalization requirements (unless you qualify for U.S. citizenship through a parent). You can then begin the naturalization process by submitting Form N-400 (officially called the “Application for Naturalization”) to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Our detailed guide to the naturalization process explains the rest of the steps, eligibility criteria, requirements, costs, and more.
When should I apply for dual citizenship?
You can apply any time after meeting the eligibility requirements for naturalization, which is usually 3–5 years after getting a green card.
How long is the process?
Filing your citizenship application with USCIS is only the first step of the process. Overall, naturalization can take up to 1.6 years, depending on the USCIS field office that receives your application and how soon you start the process. (See our detailed guide to the naturalization timeline for more information.)
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Two-thirds of the world’s countries allowed dual citizenship in 2015. Their rules, however, are not uniform. The following table lists the 10 countries with the highest green card holder populations who are eligible to naturalize in the United States, as well as whether those countries recognize dual citizenship:
|Country of Birth||Recognizes Dual U.S. Citizenship?||More Information|
|Canada||Yes||Canadian citizens who naturalize in the United States may keep their Canadian citizenship. (See more info about dual citizenship in the USA and Canada.)|
|China||No||Chinese citizens who naturalize in the United States automatically lose their Chinese citizenship. (See more info about dual citizenship in the USA and China.)|
|Cuba||Uncertain||It is unclear from both official and unofficial sources whether Cuban citizens who naturalize in the United States would automatically lose their Cuban citizenship. The U.S. Embassy in Cuba does, however, acknowledge that some U.S. citizens are also Cuban citizens. U.S. citizens who were born in Cuba will be treated by the Cuban government as Cuban citizens. (See more info about dual citizenship in the USA and Cuba.)|
|Dominican Republic||Yes||Dominican citizens who naturalize in the United States may keep their Dominican citizenship. Dual citizens, however, may not run for Dominican president or vice president and will not be recognized as Dominican diplomats or consuls by the U.S. government. (See more info about dual citizenship in the USA and the Dominican Republic.)|
|El Salvador||Yes||Salvadoran citizens who naturalize in the United States may keep their Salvadoran citizenship only if they were born in El Salvador. (See more info about dual citizenship in the USA and El Salvador.)|
|India||Not entirely||Indian citizens who naturalize in the United States automatically lose their Indian citizenship but may register as an “Overseas Citizen of India” (OCI). OCIs receive a multi-entry permanent visa, are exempt from registering as foreign nationals, and are entitled to all rights of non-resident Indians but have no political rights in India. (See more info about dual citizenship in the USA and India.)|
|Mexico||Yes||Mexican citizens who naturalize in the United States may keep their Mexican nationality but may not vote and may not run or serve in public office in Mexico. Those who obtained U.S. citizenship before 1998, however, automatically lost their Mexican nationality and needed to apply within 5 years to reclaim it. (See more info about dual citizenship in the USA and Mexico.)|
|Philippines||Yes||Filipino citizens who naturalize in the United States automatically lose their Filipino citizenship, but natural-born Filipinos may apply to reclaim it. (See more info about about dual citizenship in the USA and the Philippines .)|
|United Kingdom||Yes||British citizens who naturalize in the United States may keep their British citizenship. (See more info about dual citizenship in the USA and the U.K.)|
|Vietnam||Yes||Vietnamese citizens who naturalize in the United States automatically lose their Vietnamese citizenship but may apply to reclaim it. (See more info about dual citizenship in the USA and Vietnam.)|
IMPORTANT: The above list was compiled using research from official and unofficial sources and is intended for informational purposes only. Dual citizenship laws are often complex and can change at any time. As such, Boundless cannot guarantee that the information above is accurate and/or current. It is therefore best to consult the embassy or consulate of your country of origin to learn about its most current dual citizenship policy before applying for naturalization in the United States.