What is a Dual Citizen?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A dual citizen is someone who is a legal citizen of two countries. It is also possible for someone to hold multiple citizenship, meaning that he or she is a citizen of three or more countries, although this is relatively rare. There are both advantages and disadvantages to dual citizenship, as one might imagine.

Map of the world.
Map of the world.

In some cases, someone becomes a dual citizen without having much choice in the matter. For example, someone born in Canada to parents with United States citizenship will become a dual citizen, because the United States offers citizenship to people via jus sanguinis, the “right of the blood,” and Canada offers citizenship on the basis of jus solis, the “right of the soil.” Dual citizenship entitles someone to all the rights of citizenship in both countries, but it also carries responsibilities.

World flags.
World flags.

For example, in some cases, a dual citizen may be required to pay taxes in both nations. Dual citizens also owe their allegiance to both of the countries to which they belong, and they may need to fulfill obligations such as military service. In the event that war breaks out between both nations, a dual citizen may be in an awkward position; in that situation, a dual citizen is commonly expected to renounce citizenship in one of the nations.

It is also possible to become a dual citizen through naturalization. For instance, a Canadian citizen could move to Germany and undergo Germany's naturalization process. At the end of the process, he or she would become a dual citizen. In nations which do not recognize dual citizenship, naturalized citizens will be asked to renounce citizenship in their nations of origin before they will be admitted as full citizens. Citizens of a country which does not recognize dual citizenship should be aware that through naturalization in another country, they will forfeit citizenship in their nation of origin.

Several countries, including the United States, frown upon dual citizenship, but they do recognize it, and agents of the United States government cannot compel foreign nationals into giving up their dual citizenship, contrary to popular belief. Other nations acknowledge that it is possible to be a dual citizen, but they treat dual citizens as their citizens exclusively. This means that someone who holds dual citizenship may not be protected by one government when under the jurisdiction of another; for example, the Canadian-German citizen above could not appeal to the Canadian embassy for help while in Germany.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


My step daughter is a United States citizen and married a man from Ireland. They lived in Ireland for several years after they were married.

She was able to meet the citizenship requirements of Ireland, and thus became a dual citizen. She was able to become an Irish citizen and keep her US citizenship and be considered a citizen of both countries.

If they move to the United States, I don't think her husband would be able to become a dual citizen. I think if he applied for US citizenship, he would have to give up his Irish citizenship.


@Jacque6 - If you want to become a Canadian dual citizen, there's only so many ways you can do it. You are pledging to a nation -- of course you have to know about it. To become a dual citizen of Canada and the United States, you have to do one of four things.

You have to have parents that are Canadian, thus you can claim citizenship through birthright OR you can have Canadian grandparents that give you birthright.

If you don't have either of those, there are only two other options -- apply for citizenship through naturalization or be married to a Canadian for three years.

Dual citizenship shouldn't taken on lightly and you should give it a lot of thought. If you are still interested and want to speed up the naturalization process -- sorry, you can't. Just visit Canada while you wait and it will be over before you know it.


I live right across the United States border to Canada and I've been thinking about applying for a duel citizenship. It's literally an hour away and is very interesting to visit -- I just wish I could live there. I first visited Canada in high school for the Victoria museum. I liked the museum, but I loved Canada and have made lots of trips up there since.

I've read up on how to become a citizen, but is there another way than naturalization? I've been studying to take the naturalization test, but is there any way to speed up the process?


Long ago, a woman who married a man from another country would lose her citizenship. Whether she can have dual nationality now or not, at least the world is more flexible now! Can you imagine losing the protection of your government when you got married? (Not to mention all your right to your property, income, children, etc.)


When my family migrated to the United States from Cuba they eventually applied for American citizenship and they had to give up their Cuban citizenship. For my family it was not a problem because they were happy about it, but there were other people that they knew that were in the same boat as them that felt a little sentimental about it.

Some of these Cuban exiles dreamed of the day they could back to Cuba and live like they once did which is why for them giving up their Cuban citizenship is a little bittersweet.

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