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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Dual Nationality

Dual citizenship can have many benefits, but as recent political events have shown holding the passports of two different countries can also have some drawbacks. Whether you were born a dual national or are considering adopting a second nationality, it’s important to consider whether the pros of two legal national identities outweigh the cons. We’ve broken down the advantages and disadvantages here.

Feb 14, 2017
  • Student Tips
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Dual Nationality

What is dual nationality, or dual citizenship? While you can, essentially, be born with dual citizenship (conferred by the nationality of one or both of your parents), dual citizenship can also be a choice made when one moves abroad and fulfills citizenship requirements in a new host country. There is a clear advantage to have dual nationality in a global landscape. Let’s take a deeper look at four pros and cons of dual citizenship.

Pros.

Woman voting

1. Political and Social Rights

If you are a citizen of a country, you have the right to engage in public life. In the US and the UK, this means that you can vote. Being part of a country in which you can vote gives you the power to influence decisions at local and national levels. You can also enjoy social rights for citizens, often health care, education, and social services.

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2. Travel

International travel can be much easier for dual citizens. Sometimes there’s a financial reason or a safety reason. Some US citizens with dual citizenship choose to show their alternate passport, depending on their destinations. Sometimes, the line at the airport is shorter depending on your passport’s origin.

The benefits of a US passport? Entering the US from abroad and traveling to countries where visas are necessary. The benefits of an EU passport? Ease of entry to the EU and the UK. Also, in some countries, US passport holders are required to pay a reciprocity fee that EU passport holders don’t have to pay—so having an EU passport for those countries is a money-saver.

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3. Property

In some places, property ownership is limited to citizens. With dual nationality, you can own property in either or both countries—which means you can easily live, work, and retire in both.

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4. Culture

As a dual citizen, you’ll have access to two countries—and two cultures. You’ll be able to learn about the culture of a new place and promote that country abroad. When dual citizens feel welcome and accepted in their “second” country, they’re more likely to engage in their community—and make a positive impression of their “first” country.

Cons.

While dual nationality is often a good idea for purposes of politics, travel, property, and cultural influences, there are some drawbacks. They probably don’t outweigh the positives, but are definitely worth considering:

Military, Soldiers standing in line

1. Dual obligations

You’re bound by the laws of two countries. This means that you are bound to mandatory military service, if one of your countries requires it—at the risk of losing citizenship in the other. Pay attention to military requirements.

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2. Dual taxation

Tax laws are complicated. While the US has some income tax treaties, there are many places in the world where dual citizens may need to file US tax returns. Do your homework!

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3. Security

If you’re thinking about a government or military job in which you have access to classified information, having two citizenships could pose a conflict of interest and require you to forfeit one of your citizenships.

Businesswoman under stress from too much work in the office

4. Complicated processes

Sometimes the process is streamlined—and sometimes it’s not. For some dual nationalities, the process can take many years and be very expensive. It’s worth finding out if you need an immigration lawyer—and how much that will cost.

Obtaining a dual nationality makes a lot of sense if you’re thinking about staying where you’re studying abroad, or you want to be able to work in a variety of international locations. Make sure your professional plans jive with citizenship requirements—and that it makes good financial sense to have the responsibility for two nationalities. You should also check to see if your host country allows dual citizenship in the first place. But with access to political and social rights, travel ease, property rights, and limitless exposure to fascinating culture, it’s a decision worth considering.