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Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

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  • Writer's pictureParviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

101 Dual Citizenship FAQs for Americans

Updated: Feb 4

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

By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

Last updated: March 30th, 2023.

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

We're confident in saying this is the most comprehensive list on frequently asked questions and answers for Americans pursuing second citizenship that exists on the internet.

As always with legal issues, the specific answer to your situation might not be the same as these general answers below. Each country has its own laws and with dual citizenship, the devil is in the details. You can book an appointment with us here to discuss your particular situation.

Here are the FAQs, presented in no particular order.


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.

However, some countries (such as England) limit future passing of citizenship by descent by one generation.

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?


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?

Typically, 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 American 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)

  • Gisele Bündchen (Brazil & likely USA)

  • Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson (USA & Greece)

  • Olivia Wilde (USA & Ireland)

  • Peter Thiel (Germany, USA & New Zealand)

  • Andrew Tate (USA & United Kingdom)

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 to springboard into 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.

There are millions of Americans who quality for citizenship by descent in a European country without knowing it.

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.

28. Can I get citizenship in two different citizenship by investment programs?

Yes, you can.

29. If I’m an American citizen and I get a second citizenship, and spend a long time outside of the United States, am I at risk of being stripped of my U.S. citizenship?


30. Does dual citizenship help with college admissions?

It typically doesn’t help with admissions but it could and does help you save tons of money by allowing you and other family members to access much cheaper college tuition. This is particularly the case if you are an American pursuing citizenship in a European Union country.

31. Which countries offer citizenship by investment?

Countries that have standardized citizenship by investment programs are:

In the Caribbean→ St. Kitts, Grenada, St. Lucia, Antigua, and Dominica.

In Europe→ Malta, Macedonia, and Turkey.

In the South-Pacific→ Vanuatu.

El Salvador, Armenia and Albania are countries that have recently (as of December 7th, 2022) have discussed implementing citizenship by investment programs soon.

Also, remember the list of countries that offer residence by investment is much longer!

32. Does having two passports make you a dual citizen?

In most countries, having a passport issued by the country is definitive proof of citizenship of that country. However, there are a few exceptions such as Jordan which issues a “temporary” Jordanian passport to stateless Palestinians, which allows them to travel.

Also, many countries offer qualifying refugees resident in that country a “refugee travel document” which is not the same as a passport, but can look like one.

Other names for a refugee travel document are a “Geneva passport” or a “1951 convention travel document.” Despite the colloquial use of the word “passport” in the term “Geneva passport”, the fact is the refugee travel document is not the same as a passport, and is not evidence of citizenship in that country.

33. What citizenships by descent do Americans qualify for?

Due to a combination of recent changes in law and migration patterns, there are now literally millions of Americans who qualify for citizenship by descent in Italy, Poland, Ireland, Hungary, and Slovakia each.

We estimate hundreds of thousands of thousands of Americans qualify for citizenship by descent in Armenia, Austria, Croatia, Mexico, Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria each.

34. Is it possible to get citizenship by investment with a criminal record?

It’s said in the mobility industry that one must have a “clean record” to get citizenship by investment.

That’s largely true, however the "smaller" the crime and the longer ago it was committed, the more chances a person has getting citizenship by investment. A particular situation and person's criminal record should be screened individually before citizenship by investment is ruled out as a possibility.

35. When should one AVOID getting a citizenship?

As a general matter, naturalizing in countries with:

- citizenship based taxation

- mandatory military service

- a prohibition on renunciation

- international sanctions

should be approached with the utmost caution. These are the four red flags of second citizenship.

There are also other situation-specific reasons one might pass on obtaining citizenship in a particular country.

36. What is a passport portfolio?

A passport portfolio is simply the strategic collection of citizenships a person has to maximize freedom of movement. In this instance, a "passport" represents a citizenship even though they are not the same thing.

37. What is a "mobility asset" portfolio?

"Mobility assets" here refer to tools to maximize a person's freedom of movement and residency. Mobility assets include citizenships, residencies, semi-citizenships and even valuable visas.

Learn more here.

38. How many citizenships should a person have to be well-diversified?

The answer depends on a person's life circumstances, and goals. As a general matter, we believe a portfolio of two citizenships introduces the first element of choice in a person's life.

And having at least three citizenships is necessary to be relatively secure in one's freedom of movement, residency, and geographic-based safety.

Part of the answer also depends on which combination of citizenships a person has. We'll be writing a lot more on this in the coming months.

39. Is a passport the same thing as a citizenship?

No, despite how some travel influencers talk, the two are not the same.

A citizenship is a legal relationship between a person and a nation-state, whereas a passport is a travel document issued by that state. In most countries, a passport is only issued to its citizens (one exception being Jordanian temporary passports for Palestinians).

Citizenship can usually only be revoked with some difficulty, whereas a passport is the property of a state government and as a general matter can be revoked or cancelled with relative ease.

40. Is it possible to renounce U.S. citizenship?

Yes, it is possible.

Taking such a decision is a big step with important legal consequences. One should only take the step after careful contemplation and consultation with a U.S. citizenship lawyer.

41. Does a passport belong to an individual or a government?

Contrary to popular belief, passports generally belong to governments, not the individual citizen using the passport. This means passports can and are annulled, revoked, and seized by governments.

42. Can an American become a dual citizen and still become U.S. Senator?


According to Article I, Section 3, Clause 3 of the U.S. constitution, the only requirements to be qualifid as a U.S. senator are that one be a U.S. citizen (for at least nine years, if naturalized), at least 30 years of age, and an inhabitant of the state.

However, as Dr. Oz learned recently in Pennsylvania, being a dual citizen can certainly be a talking point used against a candidate.

43. What are the most popular citizenship and residence by investment programs?

At the moment, Turkey's citizenship by investment, Portugal's residence by investment program, and St. Kitts' citizenship by investment program are the most popular programs, for varying reasons.

At Malakouti Law, we can help you evaluate which program(s) are best for you, as well as screen you for hidden citizenship by descent eligibility.

44. What are all the ways of getting second citizenship?

Here are the six ways of getting second citizenship.

The most common and accessible ways are:

  • citizenship by naturalization after a period of residency

  • citizenship by descent

  • citizenship by investment

Some more unusual ways are:

  • citizenship (not just residency) by marriage

  • exceptional citizenship

  • religion (Spain, Portugal, Israel, Austria)

45. Why is second citizenship more powerful than second residency?

That’s because citizenship provides the highest right of both entry, and residence in a country. It’s much harder for a citizen of a country to be deprived of a right to be in the country, than someone who has permanent residency.

In many countries (including the USA), a permanent residency can be taken away for someone for many reasons, including criminal conviction, absence from the country, or other violations.

Citizenship, in general, is much harder to take away from someone.

46. What are the different types of “mobility assets?”

From order of most powerful to least, there are:

  • Citizenships

  • Permanent residencies

  • Temporary residencies

  • Visas (Nomad, Student, Tourist, etc.)

At Malakouti Law, for Americans, we focus on obtaining second citizenships and permanent residencies.

Learn more here.

47. What is the most popular citizenship by investment program?

At present, measured by number of applicants, the most popular citizenship by investment programs in the world are the programs of Turkey, and St. Kitts & Nevis.

Those two are also the CBI programs we get the most number of inquiries about.

48. Can becoming a dual citizen subject me to a second set of laws even when I’m not present in that second country?

Yes, you can be subject to a second set of laws, even when you're not present in that country, depending on the country. That's why we say dual citizenship provides a second set of benefits and a second set of obligations.

A few of those obligations are discussed in Four Red Flags to Avoid When Pursuing Second Citizenship.

49. What do "flag theory", "fictive residency", "legal opinion letter" and other global mobility terms mean?

These are all insider lingo from the world of dual citizenship and freedom of movement. All those terms and many others are explained in The Insider Lingo of Dual Citizenship.

50. If I become a dual citizen, can I later renounce my new citizenship and go back to just being a U.S. citizen?

Assuming the country of your second citizenship doesn't have a prohibition on renunciation of citizenship, yes. Yes, you would renounce your second citizenship and go back to being a single American citizen.

51. Can I get second citizenship if I have a criminal record?

If you're an American with a criminal record looking to pursue second citizenship, there's still hope.

Depending on a) the nature of the conviction, b) how long ago the conviction was and c) other factors in your life, you may still be able to qualify. Also, some U.S. state convictions can be expunged, helping your citizenship applications (in some countries). Here are three strategies we use at Malakouti Law to help Americans with a criminal record lawfully get second citizenship.

52. If I naturalize in the United States, do I have to inform my home country in some way?

It depends on the country. In some countries, like Spain, you must announce an intention to conserve your home country citizenship when you naturalize in another country.

53. As an American, if I naturalize in another country, do I have to inform the U.S. government in some way?

As a general rule, no. However, there are a few exceptions such as if you have a federal security clearance or if you are an active member of U.S. military.

54. As an American, can I apply for second citizenship using just copies of vital documents (birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.)?

It depends on the country. In the vast majority of countries, only original or certified copies of vital documents will suffice for a citizenship application. In those cases, using a printed PDF won't cut it.

Moreover, in many European and Latin American countries, even a certified copy of a vital document must also be apostilled, an additional authentication process.

55. What is an American dual citizen?

An American dual citizen is a person who has two or more citizenships, one of which is American.

For example, if you're born an American and you obtain St. Kitts citizenship by investment, you are now an American dual citizen (American-Kittsian). If you're born a Colombian and then naturalize in the United States, you're also now an American dual citizenship (Colombian-American).

The term matters because it lets us hone in on specific dual citizenship legal issues that pertain specifically to Americans who are dual citizens.

56. What are "passport attack vectors" and can becoming a dual citizen help defend against them?

A passport attack vector is any threat to the ability of someone to obtain, renew, or possess a valid passport from their country.

Becoming a dual citizen helps drastically reduce vulnerability to passport attack vectors because it removes the single point of failure of having one passport from one country.

57. As an American applying for second citizenship, do I have to submit a background check as part of my citizenship application?

Most (but not all) countries require Americans applying for naturalization to submit an FBI background check (identity history summary) as part of their application.

If you have any kind of criminal record, you may want to check out these three strategies we use at Malakouti Law to help Americans with criminal record find out where they may still qualify for second citizenship.

58. As an American, can I include my spouse and children in my second citizenship application?

It depends on the program. Speaking generally...

For most citizenship by investment programs, you can include your spouse and children under 18 years old. Some citizenship by investment programs also allow you to include young adult children who are financially dependent on you.

By contrast, most citizenship by descent programs allow you to include your children under 18 years old, but not your spouse.

59. As an American, does becoming a dual citizen interfere with my ability to bank in the USA in any way?

As a general matter, no (assuming you keep your American citizenship).

Dual Citizenship FAQ Youtube Shorts

More FAQs forthcoming each week until we reach 101 FAQs on February 28th, 2023...

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.

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