Dual citizenship is when you hold citizenship of two countries, with all the rights and responsibilities that come with each. You can get second citizenship through birth, ancestry, marriage, or residency. Some countries allow dual citizenship, while others don’t.
What would you do if you could have two passports?
Cross borders freely, work in another country, become a more global citizen?
Well, there are many possible answers to that question. But in short, having dual citizenship offers a lot of benefits.
There’s plenty to consider before starting your quest for dual citizenship. I’m personally in the process of seeking dual citizenship for myself, so this is a topic close to my heart (and you can bet I’ve done a lot of research!)
In this guide, we’ll go through everything you need to know about dual citizenship in 2023.
What is Dual Citizenship?
Dual citizenship is when a person holds citizenship in two countries. They have all the rights and responsibilities that come with being a citizen of each country.
Citizenship is the legal bond between the nation state and an individual. It can be granted via ancestry, marriage, birth, or naturalization.
For example, dual citizens can vote in elections, own property, and work in either country. When you’re a dual citizen, you can hold a passport from each of your citizenship countries.
But not every country allows dual citizenship. Some will require you to give up your original passport before allowing you to acquire theirs. All the world’s hardest countries to get citizenship will require this.
Whether or not giving up your original citizenship is a good idea depends on many factors.
For example, if your original passport is from a country with significant travel restrictions, then it makes sense to trade it for one that’s more powerful.
But in most cases, having two passports is always better than one. You could also pursue multiple citizenships!
Does the United States Allow Dual Citizenship?
Yes it does. The US government allows US citizens to hold dual citizenship.
If you were born a US citizen, you can naturalize in another country without affecting your US status.
According to a US Supreme Court ruling from the 50s (Kawakita v. United States, 1952) “a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both.”
Don’t forget, even though the US allows dual citizenship, some other countries do not.
You should be aware of this possibility when deciding whether to naturalize in another country. Here’s the list of countries that allow dual citizenship.
Does the UK Allow Dual Citizenship?
Yes, dual citizenship is allowed for UK nationals. (Which is fortunate, so we have the chance to escape the aftermath of Brexit…)
According to the UK government website, you don’t need to “apply” for dual citizenship status. You can simply acquire your second nationality while keeping your British passport.
7 Benefits of Dual Citizenship
Having a second citizenship comes with many benefits, which can change the course of your life for the better.
Here’s a list of the ones we believe are most important.
#1. Better security for you and your family
In a world that’s increasingly unstable, having dual citizenship is an essential insurance policy.
Your second passport could mean the difference between being stranded in a country in turmoil or easily escaping to a safe haven.
Having a second passport can also protect you in a situation where your original national identity might put you in danger, such as hijacking or kidnapping.
As well as loss of freedoms, such as with Brexit, poor government decisions can also lead to civil unrest.
In the worst case scenario, they could lead to outright war. In such situations, a second passport is your ticket to safety.
#2. Increased global mobility
When it comes to ease of travel, some passports are much better than others.
Citizens of countries such as Afghanistan, Libya, or Syria have limited options for destinations they can travel to without a visa.
In contrast, those fortunate enough to have citizenship of countries like Japan, Singapore or Germany, can travel visa-free to over 190 countries.
Having dual citizenship (and a powerful passport) opens up the world, providing access to smooth, unimpeded global travel.
#3. Access to more business and job opportunities
A second passport allows you to move easily around the world in search of the best job opportunities, as well as meeting potential business partners and negotiating deals in person.
It can also allow you to easily establish a business in the country of your alternative citizenship, which can bring a multitude of tax planning benefits.
#4. More flexiblity in tax planning
Dual citizenship allows you to more easily switch your tax residency between jurisdictions.
For example, perhaps you’ve made large gains on cryptocurrency. You’re worried about your tax liability when you finally realize some of those gains.
Certain countries don’t (currently) tax their residents on crypto gains. Having dual citizenship gives you a guaranteed route into an alternative jurisdiction.
#5. Access to a better quality of life
In many cases, having dual citizenship gives you access to a better quality of life.
That could include things like free state healthcare, top quality education, a safe and stable environment, and opportunities to access good jobs, invest in property and launch new business ventures in some of the world’s richest countries.
If you gain dual citizenship with an EU/EEA country, you’ll be entitled to an EU member state passport.
This gives you the right to live, work, study or retire across 30 economically prosperous and politically stable countries – without needing any visas or work permits.
#6. Broader political influence
Becoming a dual citizen gives you the opportunity to participate in the politics of two different nations.
You can vote in national elections and have a say in the futures of both your passport countries.
Depending on the laws of each country, you may also be able to run for office in either one.
#7. Alternative national identity
There’s no getting away from it – a passport defines your identity.
Having dual citizenship gives you the option to claim an alternative national identity, useful if you don’t like your original one, or feel that it no longer reflects your values.
Disadvantages of Dual Citizenship
Despite the numerous benefits of having dual citizenship, there are certain circumstances where it can be a negative.
For example, anyone who holds a US passport is obliged to file US taxes every year, no matter where in the world they actually live. Fortunately, citizenship-based taxation is rare; only the US and Eritrea still have this policy.
Finally, dual citizenship doesn’t always make you safer while travelling abroad. It all depends on where you’re going and whether they recognize your alternative citizenship.
For example, Iran doesn’t recognize dual nationality. So if you have dual citizenship with Iran, you’d always be treated as Iranian while within Iran’s borders. This has gotten people into trouble in the past, so it’s something to be aware of.
How to Get Dual Citizenship
There are a number of ways to become a dual citizen.
Some of them are out of your control, depending on accidents of birth or heritage. But others can be leveraged deliberately as part of a strategic plan to expand your global footprint.
Let’s take a look at the different ways to get dual citizenship.
Dual citizenship by descent
Getting dual citizenship through descent is a popular option. Depending on which country you’re aiming for, you can apply for citizenship if your parents (and, in some cases, grandparents) are citizens of that country.
Getting dual citizenship by descent is typically a relatively easy, low cost process. But of course, if you don’t already have an ancestor from another country, there’s not much you can do to create one.
Dual citizenship by birth
In many countries, it’s possible to get dual citizenship if you were born there. This depends on whether the country in question follows one of two systems: jus soli or jus sanguinis.
The first system, jus soli, is Latin for “right of soil”. Under jus soli, you have the right of citizenship in a country if you were born on its soil, i.e. within its borders. The nationality of your parents is irrelevant in cases of jus soli.
The United States and Canada are two examples of countries that follow the system. However, it’s less common than the second system, jus sanguinis.
In contrast, the second system, jus sanguinis, means “right of blood” in Latin. Under this system, you have the right to acquire citizenship of the country where your parents are citizens. Where you were born makes no difference.
Getting dual citizenship through birth obviously isn’t a great option if you’ve already been born. However, it could be a useful way to get dual citizenship for any children you’re planning on having in the future.
Dual citizenship by marriage
Another potential route to dual citizenship is through your spouse (or in some cases, long-term partner). Most countries allow you to apply for citizenship after marrying one of the citizens, although timelines may vary.
Certain countries, such as the US and the UK, have rigorous processes in place for testing how genuine the marriage is. This is to avoid illegal sham marriages purely for the sake of attaining a passport or residency permit.
Dual citizenship by naturalization
Getting dual citizenship by naturalization is the route for those who don’t have marriage or ancestry to fall back on.
Typically, it involves moving to your target country, acquiring legal residency, and living there for enough years to become eligible for citizenship.
There are a number of ways to acquire legal residency. You can do so by getting a job in the country and being sponsored by your employer.
Alternatively, you could get residency if you have enough independent income to support yourself, such as a pension or investments. The Portugal D7 visa is a popular example of this kind of ‘passive income’ residency.
Some countries also offer the option of citizenship by investment, where they grant citizenship in return for a major investment in the country.
In the European Union, citizenship by investment schemes are falling out of favor, partly due to security and money-laundering concerns.
Instead, residency by investment schemes are becoming more common, which grant residency first then allow the holder to apply for citizenship after the required amount of years.
For example, Portugal’s Golden Visa program allows investors to get residency in Portugal with minimal physical stay requirements. After five years, they can apply for citizenship of Portugal.
Which Citizenships Are Best?
In general, the best citizenships are typically those that lead to powerful passports with the widest range of visa-free travel opportunities, such as Japan, Singapore or Germany.
Unfortunately, those are often the most difficult ones to acquire.
Many people aim to get dual citizenship with the US or the UK. But we believe getting an EU passport offers a wider range of opportunities.
Because of EU freedom of movement rights, having a passport from any EU/EEA country allows the holder to freely live, work, study, do business, and retire in any of the 30 EU/EEA countries.
What’s more, the EU includes several countries with short citizenship timelines of only five years, such as Portugal, Ireland, Luxembourg, France, and the Czech Republic.
Irish citizenship is especially appealing, because it gives freedom of movement not only across all of the EU, but also in the UK.
Which Countries Allow Dual Citizenship?
When planning your citizenship strategy it’s important to consider whether both your original country and your target country will allow dual citizenship.
The majority of countries do allow it, but a significant number do not. Others have certain circumstances under which they will allow it.
Nationality legislation is constantly changing. We recommend you check the latest laws for both your own country and your target country before making decisions about applying for dual citizenship.
Here’s a list of countries that allow dual citizenship, organized by region.
Allowed in all circumstances:
- Cabo Verde
- Côte d’Ivoire
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
Allowed with special permission:
- South Africa
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- St Lucia
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- United States
MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA-PACIFIC
- Pakistan (but only with certain countries)
- United Arab Emirates
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- Taiwan (but only for those of Taiwanese descent, not naturalized)
- Bulgaria (only for those of Bulgarian descent, not naturalized)
- Croatia (only for those of Croatian descent, not naturalized)
- Czech Republic
- Germany (but only with other EU countries or Switzerland)
- Latvia (only for EU/EEA, NATO, or other countries with which Latvia has a special agreement)
- The Netherlands (under certain conditions)
- Slovenia (only for those of Slovenian descent, not naturalized)
- Spain (only for those of Spanish descent or Ibero-American heritage, not naturalized)
- Vatican City
Which Countries Forbid Dual Citizenship?
Some countries forbid dual citizenship outright, while others either don’t recognize it or have significant restrictions in how they allow it. They typically require the foreigner to announce their original citizenship before acquiring the new one.
Here’s a list.
- Equatorial Guinea
MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA-PACIFIC
- Saudi Arabia
- North Korea
- San Marino
Traveling With Dual Citizenship
Having dual citizenship is great for increasing your freedom and flexibility when travelling. But it also has certain implications when planning international travel.
Let’s take a quick look at some key pointers for how to travel with two passports.
First, always travel with both passports, even if you only use one. This is really important in case you face an emergency overseas or lose one of your passports. With two passports, you can get access to assistance from the embassies of both countries.
When booking your travel, be sure to use the passport that gives you the easiest access to the country in question. Then make sure you use that passport’s information when booking your trip.
The same consistency is important when checking in at the airport. Make sure to use the same passport throughout the process. Also, use the same passport for both leaving and entering the country.
Check the entry requirements for your target country. Typically, if you hold citizenship of a certain country, you must use that passport to enter and leave the country.
For example, if you’re a British citizen entering the UK, you must always use your UK passport for this purpose.
If you’re entering a country of which you don’t have citizenship, you can choose which passport to use on entry. Always go for the one that gives you the best entry conditions.
Dual Citizenship and Security Clearance
You may be wondering if having dual citizenship can affect your chances of getting security clearance. In the United States, merely having dual citizenship doesn’t automatically disqualify you from getting security clearance.
Legislation passed in 2016 brought about this major change. Before 2016, most US dual citizens had to renounce their other citizenship before they could receive US security clearance.
In certain circumstances, such as when applying for a job with national intelligence agencies, the specific country of citizenship would be a factor. Namely, does that country pose a security threat to the United States?
If you’re in this situation, we recommend you seek expert advice before making any decisions that may affect your career.
What’s more, we’ve only covered the United States here. Other countries will have their own policies on dual citizenship and security clearance.
How to Get EU Second Citizenship
EU citizenship is one of the most sought-after citizenships in the world.
Holding any passport from an EU, EEA country, or Switzerland, allows you to move freely across all the others, including the right to live, work, do business, study, and retire, in any of them.
In a sense, it’s like having 30 passports in one.
To get EU citizenship, you need to first acquire citizenship in any of those EU/EEA countries, or Switzerland. Most countries offer this possibility through any of the routes described above.
Some countries also offer pathways to citizenship or residency by investment, such as Portugal’s Golden Visa.
Others have special pathways such as Germany’s citizenship program for descendants of Holocaust victims, or Spain and Portugal’s citizenship programs for those of Sephardic Jewish descent.
Want the ultimate flexible path to EU Citizenship? Check out Europe’s cheapest Golden Visas
Which EU Citizenship is Easiest to Get?
We believe Portugal is, overall, the easiest country to get citizenship of the EU.
Here are some of the reasons why:
- Short residency period of just five years before applying for citizenship
- Range of flexible Portugal residency options to suit remote workers, retirees and investors
- Dual citizenship OK – keep your original passport
- Easy language requirements – A2 Elementary level Portuguese
- Access generous tax benefits while counting up the years to citizenship – with the NHR program
- Reasonable minimum stay requirements, especially with the Golden Visa
Spain is another interesting option, as foreigners married to a Spanish national can apply for Spanish citizenship after just one year.
But be careful if you’re aiming for dual citizenship, as Spain typically doesn’t allow it.
Italy offers one of the most far-reaching citizenship by descent pathways in the EU – going back as far as the great-grandparents.
So if you can prove that you had an Italian great-grandparent, and meet other criteria, you may be eligible to apply for Italian citizenship.
Getting Irish citizenship could be a good option if you’re already a UK national, as you can become resident without any visa or proof of income.
Ireland’s timeline to citizenship is short, just five years, and there are no language requirements apart from English.
Can you have two passports?
Yes, you can have two passports, depending on the specific laws of each passport country regarding dual citizenship.
How many passports can you have from different countries?
There’s no upper limit to the number of passports you can have. But not all countries allow dual citizenship.
What are the benefits of dual citizenship?
The benefits of dual citizenship include: more freedom of travel, access to more business and employment opportunities, a safe haven in times of trouble, better scope for tax planning, access to better quality of life, broader political influence, and an alternative national identity.
What are the cons of dual citizenship?
The cons of dual citizenship include: the possibility of military service or conscription, citizenship-based taxation, certain countries not recognizing your alternative citizenship.
Can British citizens have dual citizenship?
Yes, British citizens can have dual citizenship. The UK recognizes dual citizenship.
Will I lose my UK citizenship if I move to another country?
No, you won’t lose your UK citizenship if you move to another country. Moving to another country will not deprive the individual of citizenship.
Where can US citizens get dual citizenship?
US citizens can get dual citizenship in a large number of countries, such as Spain, Portugal, Malta, Cyprus, Italy, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Australia, the UK, Canada, Mexico, Australia or New Zealand, among others.
Can dual citizenship be revoked?
Yes, dual citizenship can be revoked in certain circumstances. For example, the British government (along with several other democratic states) has recently adopted legislation to allow it to revoke the citizenship of naturalized British citizens. However, this can only happen when the individual already has another citizenship, as international law prohibits rendering any individual stateless.
Source: Tamara Lenard, P. (2016). Democracies and the Power to Revoke Citizenship. Ethics & International Affairs, 30(1), 73-91. doi: 10.1017/S0892679415000635
Can dual citizenship expire?
No, dual citizenship cannot expire.
Can dual citizenship affect security clearance?
It depends. Having dual citizenship may cause authorities to ask additional questions when deciding whether to grant security clearance to an individual. The biggest question for governments is usually: where does that individual’s loyalty ultimately lie?
Source: What Diplomats Do (2021)
Can you have citizenship in 2 countries
Yes, you can have citizenship in two countries, if both countries of those recognize dual citizenship.
What does nationality mean?
Nationality is the status of belonging to a certain country and being its citizen, whether by birth or by naturalization. It is a legal status under international law.
Before you go…
As the world becomes increasingly unstable, there’s never been a better time to consider getting dual citizenship.
This article has demonstrated how anyone can get dual citizenship, even without the ‘right’ ancestry.
We believe an EU passport is a great option for accessing freedom of movement across 30 countries, but the best strategy for you depends on your individual goals.
If you’re looking for a good all-rounder, we recommend Portugal. Not only is the Portuguese passport one of the world’s most powerful, but Portugal also offers a wide range of accessible routes to get residency – followed by citizenship after 5 years.
In particular, Portugal’s Golden Visa investor residency program offers maximum flexibility. You can start your journey to citizenship without ever living full time in Portugal. Many US investors prefer the fast and efficient Golden Visa investment funds route.