• Parviz Malakouti, Esq.

101 Dual Citizenship FAQs for Americans

Updated: Nov 20


(A stack of passports with an old INS refugee travel document on top)


By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.


Last updated: November 1st, 2022


These are the most frequently asked dual citizenship questions we see at Malakouti Law.


As always with legal issues, the specific answer to your situation might not be the same as these general answers below. You can book an appointment with us here to discuss your particular situation.


This list will be updated each week until we reach 101 FAQs on December 31st, 2022.


1. As an American applying for citizenship of another country, do I have to renounce my U.S. citizenship?


The United States does not force you to renounce your U.S. citizenship when applying for a second citizenship. However, there are some other countries that strictly prohibit multiple citizenship. They may have a requirement that you renounce your previous citizenships.


2. If I apply for U.S. naturalization, do I have to renounce citizenship in the country I came from?


The United States does not force you to renounce your original citizenship when you become a U.S. citizen. However, your origin country may have some restrictions on multiple citizenship which cause you to be involuntarily stripped of their citizenship.


3. Can I avoid U.S. taxes by becoming a dual citizen with another country?


No, you cannot avoid U.S. tax obligations as a “U.S. person” simply by becoming a citizen of another country. However, having a second citizenship could assist you with taking other additional steps (such as taking advantage of the American foreign earned income exclusion or renouncing U.S. citizenship) which would allow you to minimize or possibly eliminate your U.S. tax obligation.


4. Can American dual citizens travel with two passports?


Yes. As a general matter, dual citizens can travel with two passports. The ability to leverage the visa-free travel permission of more than one country is one of the big reasons Americans are pursuing second citizenship. However, most countries require their own citizens to only enter the country with a passport from their country.


So for example, if you are a dual American and Polish citizen, you’d likely have to enter the United States only using your American passport.


5. Can I escape a military draft by being a dual citizen?


For most countries, no.


6. Can dual citizenship be passed down to my future children?


Nowadays, in most cases, yes.



7. How many citizenships does the United States allow?


The United States does not limit how many other citizenships a U.S. citizen can have.


8. Does Canada allow dual citizenship?


Yes.


9. How do you apply for “dual citizenship”?


In most instances, there is no application for “dual citizenship” per se. Each country has its own laws regarding acquisition of citizenship. When an American who has one citizenship acquires a second citizenship, he or she becomes a dual citizen automatically.


When someone is a dual citizen, they are subject to two sets of laws from two different countries. If both countries allow their citizens to pass citizenship to children via jus sanguinis (i.e. right of blood) then the “dual citizenship” would pass to the future children of the dual citizen.

10. Do I have to do a lot of paperwork to get dual citizenship?


It depends heavily on the type of case.


On the low end, we typically see applicants with fairly very “straightforward” cases have to submit eight to ten documents (along with apostilles and translations, if necessary). For most of our applicants, we usually submit at least twelve to fifteen documents. More complex cases can require identifying, gathering, apostilling and translating twenty documents or more.


11. Are you SURE the U.S. allows dual citizenship?


Yes, we are sure!


12. Can an American be a citizen of a foreign country without even knowing it?


Yes, absolutely.


Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible for someone to be the citizen of a foreign country without even knowing it. In these cases, the application process is to prove citizenship, not to acquire citizenship.


We call these cases to prove pre-existing citizenship verification of citizenship or certification of citizenship. Applying to become the citizen in another country is naturalization.


With verification of citizenship, legally you were already a citizen of the country but you are just applying for proof of such. With naturalization, you were not a citizen of the country and you are applying to become a citizen of the country.


13. Can dual citizenship expire?


A person’s citizenship of a country doesn’t “expire” per se but a few countries require naturalized citizens to visit the country within a certain period of time (for example, within three years).


However, this is rather unusual within the realm of citizenship and only a few countries have such a requirement.


14. Can dual citizens still vote in the United States?


Yes, they can.


15. Can dual citizenship happen?


Yes, it can. The most common paths are citizenship by descent and naturalization after a period of residency. People with financial means can also explore citizenship by investment.


Less common paths to dual citizenship are by exception (for example, in the case of elite athletes, artists, etc.), by marriage, or by religious background (Israel & Spain being well known examples).


16. Can dual citizenship be revoked?


Possibly, but usually only in a very narrow set of circumstances. Many countries have laws that allow revocation of citizenship for treasonous crimes, and fraud or dishonesty in the acquisition of the citizenship.


As I’ve written before, one enormous vulnerability of caribbean citizenships by investment is that some of them can be revoked even for non-treasonous crimes committed after having become a citizen of the country.


As always, the specific rules depend on the particular country.


17. How do dual citizens travel internationally?


Dual citizens can travel with either one or both of their passports. However, most countries require their citizens to enter the country only with the passport of that country.


For example, if you become a dual American-Grenadian citizen, you would have to enter the United States with your U.S. passport. However, if you’re traveling to France, you can enter with either your U.S. or Grenadian passport.


18. How does dual citizenship work?


You’re typically (but not always) born a citizen of at least one country. If you naturalize or verify citizenship in a second country, you’re now a dual citizen of both countries.


That means you have two sets of citizenship benefits (e.g. right of residence, visa free travel, social benefits), but also two sets of citizenship obligations.


19. What dual citizenship does the United States allow?


The United States allows dual (or even multiple) citizenship. As an American, you can become a citizen of as many countries in which you can find a path to citizenship, whether by descent, investment, regular naturalization or otherwise.


20. Do dual citizens HAVE to travel with two passports?


No, but if you are relying on the visa-free travel rights of one of your countries, you’ll need that passport in order to take advantage of that benefit.


For example, if you’re a dual American-Iranian citizen traveling to Venezuela for a week, you’re entitled to visa-free access and stay for 15 days as an Iranian-citizen. That means you’ll need your Iranian passport to enter Venezuela if you want to take advantage of the Iranian-Venezuela visa-free arrangement.


21. Can I get dual citizenship with Mexico?


Yes, provided you have citizenship (or a path) in both the USA and Mexico.


22. How much does dual citizenship cost?


The cost varies wildly, depending on both the type of case you have (i.e. citizenship by descent versus citizenship by investment) and how difficult your case is.


The cost of citizenship by descent cases can be widely variable, depending on the case and the country. On the other hand, citizenship by investment can cost $120,000 USD or even higher.


23. Who are some famous American dual citizens?


Lots of well known Americans are multiple citizens, such as:

  • Elon Musk (USA & South Africa)

  • Jim Carrey (USA & Canada)

  • Arnold Schwarzenneger (Austria & USA)

  • NBA Star Joel Embid (Cameroon, France, & USA)

  • Salma Hayek (Mexico & USA)

  • Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson (USA & Greece)

  • Olivia Wilde (USA & Ireland)

  • Peter Thiel (Germany, USA & New Zealand)

I also suspect there are a number of other famous athletes, and even about eight to ten U.S. congress members who discreetly hold multiple citizenship.


24. As a dual citizen, can I get two passports?


Usually, yes. A passport is a travel document that is typically (but not always) given only to citizens of the country that issues the passport. Dual citizens usually can get a passport from both countries they are citizen of.


25. Can dual citizenship help me retire in Europe?


Yes, it can, because citizenship in a country gives you the indefinite right of residence in that given country.


Furthermore, citizenship in one of the 27 European Union countries, gives you the right of residency in any of the 27 European Union countries. This list includes gems such as Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Austria, and Ireland.


26. What is citizenship by descent?


Citizenship by descent is acquisition (or verification) of citizenship based on a person’s ancestry from a given country. While the idea is simple enough, there are a number of different ways countries offer citizenship by descent.


27. What is the difference between verification of citizenship and naturalization?


Verification of citizenship is an application to prove you are already a citizen in the country (yes, you can be citizen of a country without even knowing it).


With verification of citizenship, legally, you were already a citizen of the country but you are just applying to prove it legally.


On the other hand, applying to become the citizen in another country is naturalization.


With verification of citizenship, legally you were already a citizen of the country but you are just applying for proof of such. With naturalization, you were not a citizen of the country and you are applying to become a citizen of the country.


The difference may sound like splitting hairs but there is a fundamental legal difference that can often affect other important legal rights, such as whether your children are also entitled to citizenship in the country.


More FAQs forthcoming each week until we reach 101 FAQs on December 31st, 2022...


The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Each immigration case is particular and you should consult with a qualified, licensed immigration lawyer about your case before taking any steps.