I’m a U.S. citizen. Can I get a passport from another country?

U.S. citizen

Yes, and interest in obtaining a second passport is increasing among U.S. citizens. While the U.S. has long permitted citizens to hold dual nationality, other countries have relaxed laws regarding dual nationality relatively recently. At the same time, U.S. citizens have more avenues available to acquire a passport from, or residency in, foreign countries.

A second passport does not conflict with U.S. citizenship

U.S. citizens exploring dual nationality are often surprised to learn that under U.S. law, acquiring a passport from another country does not jeopardize U.S. citizenship. The Citizenship Clause, the first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment, states that “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside,” but does not discuss dual nationality.

Similarly, the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), the federal law governing U.S. immigration, does not mention dual nationality, nor does it require a person to choose one nationality or another upon becoming an adult. U.S. citizens holding multiple passports should use their U.S. passports to enter and leave the U.S. per INA § 215(b), but that is the only restriction on dual nationals found in the entire INA. Furthermore, the United States Supreme Court held in Kawakita v. U.S. that dual nationality is “a status long recognized in the law” and “the mere fact that [a U.S citizen] asserts the rights of one citizenship does not without more mean that he [or she] renounces the other.”

Dual nationality laws in the Americas and Europe have eased since the 1990s

While the U.S. has a somewhat long history of permitting dual nationality, most countries in Europe and the Americas did not permit dual citizenship through the early 2000s. In 1990, only about 30% of countries in the Americas and Europe permitted dual citizenship. By 2016, 85% of countries in Europe and the Americas had relaxed nationality laws to allow their citizens to hold multiple passports. As a result, U.S. citizens may acquire a second passport or residency in many Western countries without having to renounce U.S. citizenship.

Percentage of countries per world region that permitted dual citizenship in 1990, 2016

Dual nationality through family ties

Many of those same countries in Europe and the Americas have created paths to citizenship or residency for foreigners, U.S. citizens included. Countries have adopted, for example, provisions for naturalization through descent or ancestry: if a U.S. citizen is able to demonstrate that his or her parents or grandparents were citizens of a particular country, citizenship may be acquired. In Europe, those countries include the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, Luxembourg, Hungary, Greece, and Armenia. Spain and Portugal have each also enacted a “Law of Return,” which allow the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi Jews to obtain citizenship, no matter their current location.

Citizenship by investment

A growing number of countries have also opened to citizenship by investment, whereby individuals can obtain a passport by investing in a particular country. For those countries that do not make citizenship directly available through investment, many offer residence by investment programs, which can ultimately lead to citizenship. Examples of countries with citizenship and residency by investment programs include Italy, Spain, Portugal, Malta, and Grenada.

Citizenship and residency by investment programs usually require investment in the target country’s real estate market, but some programs offer citizenship based on an irrevocable donation to a government-run fund. Minimum investment amounts range from $200,000.00 in the case of Grenada, to €1,150,000.00 for a passport from Malta.

Dual nationality may be an asset for U.S. citizens

From a purely objective standpoint, U.S. citizenship is valuable: a U.S. passport allows for visa-free travel to over 180 nations. While more people are renouncing their U.S. citizenship each year , it is highly unlikely that U.S. citizens will expatriate from the United States en masse.

Nevertheless, COVD-19 related travel restrictions and the current social and political tension in the United States, along with the knowledge that acquisition of a second passport does not require loss of U.S. citizenship, make dual nationality more attractive to U.S. citizens. While some may seek a second passport for sentimental or identity-related reasons, many U.S. citizens will explore dual nationality as an interesting asset that may carry the benefit of allowing the second passport holder to sidestep future uncertainties and political risk in the United States.

If you would like to learn how to obtain dual nationality through family ties or investment, or even have questions about becoming a U.S. citizen, contact Ganey Law Group for a consultation.

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