FAQ: Dual Citizenship

Does the United States allow for dual citizenship?

Yes. A person can be a citizen of the United States and another country. The United States does not restrict its citizens from having citizenship in other countries so long as it does not hinder their ability to owe allegiance to the United States.

U.S. law does not impede its citizens’ acquisition of foreign citizenship whether by birth, descent, naturalization or other form of acquisition, by imposing requirements of permission from U.S. courts or any governmental agency. If a foreign country’s law permits parents to apply for citizenship on behalf of minor children, nothing in U.S. law impedes U.S. citizen parents from doing so.

U.S. law does not require a U.S. citizen to choose between U.S. citizenship and another (foreign) nationality (or nationalities).  A U.S. citizen may naturalize in a foreign state without any risk to their U.S. citizenship. 

U.S. dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country (or countries, if they are nationals of more than one). They are required to obey the laws of both countries, and either country has the right to enforce its laws.  Claims of other countries upon U.S. dual-nationals may result in conflicting obligations under the laws of each country.  U.S. dual nationals may also face restrictions in the U.S. consular protections available to U.S. nationals abroad, particularly in the country of their other nationality.   

Section 101(a)(22) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that “the term ‘national of the United States’ means (A) a citizen of the United States, or (B) a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United States.” Therefore, U.S. citizens are also U.S. nationals. Non-citizen nationality status refers only individuals who were born either in American Samoa or on Swains Island to parents who are not citizens of the United States. The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a national of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own nationality laws based on its own policy. Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. national parents may be both a U.S. national and a national of the country of birth. Or, an individual having one nationality at birth may naturalize at a later date in another country and become a dual national.

If I Have Dual Citizenship, Can I Use Either Passport to Travel Internationally?

U.S. nationals, including U.S. dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. U.S. dual nationals may also be required by the country of their foreign nationality to use that country’s passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport to travel to or from a country other than the United States is not inconsistent with U.S. law.  

You can find additional information on dual nationality and the potential challenges for international travelers here.

Can I lose my U.S. Citizenship?

There are various ways you can lose your U.S. citizenship but most of them are related to criminality or terrorism.

What if I take a job with a foreign government?

A U.S. national’s employment, after attaining the age of 18, with the government of a foreign country or a political subdivision thereof is a potentially expatriating act pursuant to Section 349(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act if the individual is a citizen of that foreign country or takes an oath of allegiance to that country in connection with such employment. Such employment, however, will result in one’s expatriation only if done voluntarily with the intention of relinquishing U.S. citizenship. Running for foreign office, even foreign head of state, is not a potentially expatriating act; only accepting, serving in, or performing the duties of a foreign office are potentially expatriating as described above.  

The Department has adopted an administrative presumption that U.S. nationals intend to retain their U.S. citizenship when they naturalize as nationals of a foreign state, declare their allegiance to a foreign state, or accept non-policy level employment with a foreign government. See 22 CFR 50.40(a); see also 7 FAM 1200 (additionally applying the presumption to serving as an officer in the military forces of a foreign state not engaged in hostilities against the United States). Questions concerning whether a foreign government position is a policy level position should be referred to the Office of Legal Affairs for Overseas Citizens Services.

U.S. nationals employed in non-policy level positions with foreign governments are not required to take any action to retain their U.S. nationality if they wish to retain it because the Department presumes that U.S. nationals employed in such positions do not have the requisite intent to relinquish their U.S. nationality. An individual who is employed in a non-policy level position will only lose his/her U.S. nationality if he or she establishes clearly and credibly, by a preponderance of the evidence, an intent to relinquish U.S. nationality upon assuming or serving in such foreign government employment. 

In cases where U.S. nationals are employed in policy-level positions, the Department of State will seek to ascertain the individual’s intent to retain or relinquish his or her U.S. nationality upon accepting the policy level position with a foreign government. An individual assuming such a position who wishes to retain U.S. nationality should state clearly to the Department or post that he or she intended to retain U.S. nationality. An individual assuming such a position who wishes to relinquish U.S. nationality may come to Post and follow the required steps to complete the Certificate of Loss of Nationality application process.

Cases involving service of a U.S. national as a foreign head of state, head of government, or foreign minister raise complex questions of international law and are reviewed by the Department on a case by case basis. Serving as a foreign head of state/government or foreign minister may affect the level of immunity from U.S. jurisdiction that a dual national may be afforded. All such cases should be referred to the Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Consular Affairs.

What about service in a foreign military?

A U.S. national who is a resident or citizen of a foreign country may be subject to compulsory military service in that country.  Although the United States recognizes the problems that may be caused by such foreign military service, there is nothing that we can do to prevent it since each sovereign country has the right to enact its own laws on military service and apply them as it sees fit to its citizens and residents.

Federal statutes long in force prohibit certain aspects of foreign military service originating within the United States.  The current laws are set forth in Section 958-960 of Title 18 of the United States Code.  In Wiborg v. U.S. , 163 U.S. 632 (1896), the Supreme Court endorsed a lower court ruling that it was not a crime under U.S. law for an individual to go abroad for the purpose of enlisting in a foreign army; however, when someone has been recruited or hired in the United States, a violation may have occurred.  The prosecution of persons who have violated 18 U.S.C. 958-960 is the responsibility of the Department of Justice.

Although a person’s service in the armed forces of a foreign country may not constitute a violation of U.S. law, such action could serve as a predicate act for the relinquishment of U.S. citizenship under 349(a)(3) of the INA [8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(3)] under two circumstances.  Section 349(a)(3) provides for loss of U.S. nationality if a U.S national voluntarily and with the intention of relinquishing U.S. nationality enters or serves in the armed forces of a foreign state engaged in hostilities against the United States or serves in the armed forces of any foreign state as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer.  Note that the administrative presumption of intent to retain nationality does not apply to voluntary service in the armed forces of a state engaged in hostilities against the United States, and thus such action could be viewed as indicative of an intention to relinquish U.S. nationality, although each case is examined on its own with a view to the totality of the circumstances.  Military service in a foreign country is not an expatriating act if service is as a soldier who is not an officer, unless the foreign military is engaged in hostilities with the United States.  Further, foreign military service usually does not cause loss of nationality since an intention to relinquish nationality normally is lacking.  In adjudicating loss of nationality cases, the Department has established an administrative presumption that a person serving in the armed forces of a foreign state not engaged in hostilities against the United States does not have the intention to relinquish nationality.  One who voluntarily serves as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer in the military of a country not engaged in hostilities with the United States will lose one’s U.S. citizenship only if one intended to relinquish U.S. citizenship when he/she  served in the armed forces of a foreign state.   

See also information flyers on related subject available via the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page. These flyers include:

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