Multiple citizenship

Multiple citizenship, dual citizenship, multiple nationality, or dual nationality is a person's citizenship status, in which a person is concurrently regarded as a citizen of more than one state under the laws of those states. There is no international convention which determines the nationality or citizen status of a person. Citizenship status is defined exclusively by national laws, which can vary and can conflict. Multiple citizenship arises because different countries use different, and not necessarily mutually exclusive, criteria for citizenship. Colloquial speech refers to people "holding" multiple citizenship, but technically each nation makes a claim that a particular person is considered its national.

Some countries do not permit dual citizenship. This may be by requiring an applicant for naturalization to renounce all existing citizenship, or by withdrawing its citizenship from someone who voluntarily acquires another citizenship, or by other devices. Some countries do not permit a renunciation of citizenship. Some countries permit a general dual citizenship while others permit dual citizenship but only of a limited number of countries.

Most countries that permit dual citizenship still may not recognize the other citizenship of its nationals within its own territory, for example, in relation to entry into the country, national service, duty to vote, etc. Similarly, it may not permit consular access by another country for a person who is also its national. Some countries prohibit dual citizenship holders from serving in their militaries or on police forces or holding certain public offices.[1]


Up until the late 19th century, nations often decided whom they claimed as their citizens or subjects, and did not recognize any other nationalities they held. Many states did not recognize the right of their citizens to renounce their citizenship without permission, due to policies that originated with the feudal theory of perpetual allegiance to the sovereign. This meant that people could hold multiple citizenships, with none of their nations recognizing any other of their citizenships. Until the early modern era, when levels of migration were insignificant, this was not a serious issue. However, when non-trivial levels of migration began, this state of affairs sometimes led to international incidents, with countries of origin refusing to recognize the new nationalities of natives who had migrated, and when possible, conscripting natives who had naturalized as citizens of another country into military service. The most notable example was the War of 1812, triggered by British impressment of American seamen who were alleged to be British subjects into naval service.[2][3]

In the aftermath of the 1867 Fenian Rising, Irish-Americans who had gone to Ireland to participate in the uprising and were caught were charged with treason, as the British authorities considered them to be British subjects. This outraged many Irish-Americans, to which the British responded by pointing out that, just like British law, American law also recognized perpetual allegiance.[2] As a result, Congress passed the Expatriation Act of 1868, which granted Americans the right to freely renounce their U.S. citizenship. Britain followed suit with a similar law, and years later, signed a treaty agreeing to treat British subjects who had become U.S. citizens as no longer holding British nationality. During this time, diplomatic incidents had also arisen between the United States and several other European countries over their tendency to conscript naturalized American citizens visiting their former homelands. In response, the US government negotiated agreements with various European states known as the Bancroft Treaties, under which the signatories pledged to treat the voluntary naturalization of a former citizen or national with another sovereign nation as a renunciation of their citizenship.[2]

As a result, the theory of perpetual allegiance largely fell out of favor with governments during the late 19th century. With the consensus of the time being that dual citizenship would only lead to diplomatic problems, more governments began prohibiting it, and revoking the nationality of citizens holding another nationality. By the mid-20th century, dual nationality was largely prohibited worldwide, although there were exceptions. For example, a series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings permitted Americans born with citizenship in another country to keep it without losing their U.S. citizenship.[2][4]

At the 1930 League of Nations Codification Conference, an attempt was made to codify nationality rules into a universal worldwide treaty, the 1930 Hague Convention, whose chief aims would be to completely abolish both statelessness and dual citizenship. It proposed laws that would have reduced both, but in the end was ratified by only twenty nations.[2]

However, the consensus against dual nationality began to erode due to changes in social mores and attitudes. By the late 20th century it was becoming gradually accepted again.[2] Many states were lifting restrictions on dual citizenship. For example, the British Nationality Act 1948 removed restrictions on dual citizenship in the United Kingdom, the 1967 Afroyim v. Rusk ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited the U.S. government from involuntarily stripping citizenship from Americans over dual citizenship, and the Canadian Citizenship Act, 1976, removed restrictions on dual citizenship in Canada. The number of states allowing multiple citizenship further increased after a treaty in Europe requiring signatories to limit dual citizenship lapsed in the 1990s, and countries with high emigration rates began permitting it to maintain links with their respective diasporas.[5]

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