What is Dual Nationality?
Dual nationality means that a person is a national of two countries, having legal rights and obligations in connection with both countries. * While there may be advantages to holding dual nationality, such as ease of foreign residency and access to government programs, dual nationals should understand the legal considerations that can make life and international travel more complicated.
*A person may hold more than two nationalities, and the same guidance generally applies.
How Do You Acquire Dual Nationality?
You may knowingly or unknowingly be a national of another country, even if you do not accept the nationality or hold a passport of that country. You may acquire dual nationality (i.e., U.S. and another nationality) in one of several ways, including:
- Being born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, to one or two parents holding a nationality other than the United States, with your second nationality based on the other country’s nationality law;
- Being born outside the United States to one or two U.S. citizen parents, with your second nationality based on the foreign country’s laws; or
- Naturalizing as a U.S. citizen while maintaining the nationality of another country.
Potential Challenges to Holding Dual Nationality
Countries have different laws and regulations for dual nationals and some countries may not permit dual nationality. Research your destination on our Country Information Page. You should also check with the embassy of any country where you hold a foreign nationality for relevant nationality laws before travel. Examples of regulations that may impact a dual national include the following:
- Entry and Exit Requirements: When traveling to a country where you have U.S. and that country’s nationality, you may be required to enter and depart on a passport from that country or present a valid identity document from that country. Some countries impose specific restrictions on departing nationals, such as the requirement for an exit visa.
- Exit Bans: Countries may impose exit bans on U.S. and dual nationals for a variety of reasons, such as an alternative to criminal detention or in cases of civil or familial disputes. Exit bans may also be used coercively on individuals who are not facing criminal charges themselves, but rather to compel an associate or relative under investigation to return from abroad. Dual nationals subject to an exit ban may not know how long the restrictions or investigation may continue. Exit bans or the prolonged processing of civil documents often create a significant financial burden, including unemployment, unexpected living expenses, and fines.
- Limited U.S. Assistance Abroad: Local authorities may not recognize your U.S. nationality if you are also a national of that country, especially if you did not enter the country using your U.S. passport. The U.S. embassy or consulate’s ability to provide consular assistance may be limited.
- Notification and Access to Detained Dual Nationals: Many countries do not recognize dual nationality under their laws, even if they do not expressly prohibit dual nationality. U.S. consular officials may not be permitted to access U.S. nationals in detention if they are also nationals of the country where they are detained. Dual nationals who are arrested or detained should request that police or prison officials notify the closest U.S. embassy or consulate.
- Military Service: Dual nationals may be subject to mandatory military service in a foreign country. This obligation may be imposed immediately upon arrival or when attempting to depart the country.
- Registration: In some countries, you may be required to register your other nationalities.
- Prohibition of Dual Nationality: Some countries have laws that prohibit dual nationality, and you may be forced to give up a foreign nationality. You could be compelled to do so through a formal act of renunciation. We recommend that you do research on the dual nationality laws of the countries in which you are a dual national, or where you are interested in naturalizing. You can find a list of local attorneys who may be able to assist you on the websites of U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, or travel.state.gov.