Dual Citizenship Negatives??

Old Jan 31st, 2005, 06:45 AM
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Dual Citizenship Negatives??

Hi all. This is my first post, but I have been lurking here for several months.

I was reading a thread last week which got me thinking. And that can be a dangerous thing! I am looking to get more insight into a particular item that has peaked my interest.

As an initial matter, my husband and I are Americans and very happy to be Americans. We wouldn't ever want to do anything to jeopardize our citizenship here in the U.S. We also love traveling and would like to look into living abroad for a couple of years probably prior to having kids or when our kids are pre-schoolers.

Anyway I was reading a thread last week about a couple who were considering relocating post retirement to Italy. Obviously this isn't us - as we are perhaps 30-40 years out from retirement. Someone posted a link to a website though which got me thinking about dual citizenship.

I spent some time tooling around the internet and it does appear (based on the various Italian Consulate websites and a site referenced here called www.myitaliancitizenship.com that we would be eligible for dual citizenship which could make it easier to live abroad for a couple of years (and who knows maybe longer).

In case anyone is curious here is why we would be eligible - it's the jure sanguinis reason - my husband's grandmother came to the US during WWII. After 1948, but prior to becoming an American, she had my MIL. Thus, at the time my MIL was born she was born to an Italian woman and therefore my MIL is Italian. My MIL had my husband and therefore he is Italian. Based on the information that is out there, it looks like he qualifies. If he were to re-activate his Italian citizenship, I would be elible because I have been married to an Italian citizen for three years (it's three years because we don't live in Italy). Anyway, I think on the reading of several website he and then me (so we) would qualify.

I see there are many benefits to dual citizenship. One drawback is the possibility of military service. Websites seem to indicate that this is easy enough to take care of by filing a form. In my experience things are never as easy as they sound, but for now I will assume this is true because there are bigger questions that I have.

I went to the U.S. State Dept. website to get the view of the U.S. government. http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_p.../cis_1753.html As I said, we would never want to jeopardize our citizenship here. Their take is quite vague - I assume this is purposeful. Basically it states that the U.S. has no official statement on dual citizenship, but generally discourages it. The part that confuses me (or brings up more questions is) "Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship."

Anyone have any experience as to this? What are the negatives of dual citizenship? I assume that if eligible we would not fall into the applying for foreign citizenship category because hypothetically my husband has always been an Italian citizen - he's just never gotten the paperwork filed. Or do you think that filing the paperwork is "applying for it." I'm able to see both arguments. I am curious as to the legal interpretation of the language.

Bottom line is that this is something that we are starting to contemplate. From starting I mean, that we are still in the information gaining part - and wouldn't act on this for at least a year or two. And I am not sure that the benefits outweigh the risks. Do you have any experience on the negative aspects (i.e. possibility of losing American citizenship)? Do you know where we could look to find more information. I guess my biggest fear is that the government's take on this is vague - I feel that it is vague so that they can change their mind depending on who the dual citizen is - this makes sense - would it make you not do it?

Thanks!
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 06:52 AM
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Hi EA,

Dual citizenship could be useful to you.

However, you will have to start talking like Chico Marx.


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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 06:53 AM
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Of course filing the paperwork is "applying for it." But as long as you don't file the paperwork with the intention of giving up your U.S. citizenship, you're meeting the requirements of the law as I understand them.

I and my husband and two children all have EU citizenship. We have it because one or more of us may want to work or live in the EU at some point. We got it because I have Irish ancestors and am eligible for it - my husband and children got it through me.

As far as I know, no authority in the U.S. government even knows we have it. I don't think the Irish Embassy is under any obligation to report it. Anyway, it hasn't had any disadvantages for us at all, and I've had it since 1987.

But don't take my word for it. Call the Italian embassy and speak to an expert, and then call an attorney to verify what you've learned.
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 06:58 AM
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However, we just renewed our US passports, and the form we filled out clearly states that we may not apply for a renewal if we acquired another citizenship. I may be stating it wrong, but just look at the application/renewal form that can be obtained at any U.S. post office.
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 07:05 AM
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My personal understanding is that since 1975 (?), the US no longer forbids dual citizenship. So you can be a citizen of another country (or other countries).

It's actually not that easy to lose your US citizenship, as far as I know. You need to renounce your US citizenship on foreign soil to give it up formally (if I remember right). And there're tax consequences.

As far as I know, a dual citizen should not be vote in the other country's/other countries' elections, as this might be a red flag to the US government. Otherwise my understanding is that the government doesn't really care.
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 07:27 AM
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Thanks for the answers so far.

Michael, you bring up an good consideration. I just pulled the passort renewal by mail form. I believe the language you are referring to is the part on the form that says "I have not, since acquiring United States citizenship, been naturalized as a citizen of a foreign state; taken an oath or made an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state".

The question is would this language apply? When you become a dual citizen of Italy using the format I am referring to to, I don't think you are being naturalized. But I do assume that in some part of the paperwork you swear allegiance to Italy.

StCirq - have you encountered this? How did you handle it?

111op - thanks for your insight too. My MIL had a story that freaked us out - and the person in it lost their US citizenship, but the individual also voted in Italy. I didn't post it as there were too many uncertainties in my MIL's story, but it sounds similar to what you are saying.

Anyone else?

Thanks again.
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 07:29 AM
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Hopefully you have learned at least ONE thing after doing all that "lurking" and that is that this site is great for all sorts of things but legal advice and something that could have "tax consequences" is not, IMO, one of them.

Listen to those above, other than the class clown, and consult the appropriate authorities.
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 07:31 AM
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That phrase is an odd one. Sounds to me like it applies to naturalized Americans (who have "acquired" U.S. citizenship) rather than to those who are American by birth. A nice ambiguous phrase for the lawyers to argue over.
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 07:36 AM
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That language is very interesting. I wasn't aware that they actually ask about this in a passport renewal.

I've a friend with three citizenships, but I guess she was not formally naturalized as I think that she acquired them by birth. But as far as I know, she has three passports and is always joking that she'll claim one of her alternative citizenships if she's held hostage as a US citizen.

As far I understand it, it's nearly impossible for the rich to escape taxation by renouncing US citizenship, as there's some sort of tax imposed when you renounce your citizenship. And, as I said, it's really not that easy to lose US citizenship. I remember some controversy about Lindt (?), who fought against the US in Afghanistan (?). Even in that situation, wasn't there still discussion as to whether Lindt is still a US citizen? I forget what the outcome of that case was.


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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 07:37 AM
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Elizabeth Anne:

No I did not have to swear allegiance to Ireland, but the situation with Ireland is no doubt different from that with Italy. I'm simply taking advantage of a special Irish Registry of Foreign Births that was initiated to try to get Irish citizens who had fled the Great Potato Famine back to Ireland or at least count themselves as Irish. The law changed in 2000, presumably because Ireland isn't lacking citizens any longer, and it is now much more difficult to use ancestry to obtain citizenship. And since I'm not at present residing full-time in Ireland or any other EU country, I'm not bound by the laws of Ireland, except if I'm there as a visitor of course.

I would agree that by obtaining an Italian passport you are not being naturalized.
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 07:39 AM
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BT, good point. I missed that, actually. There're subtle differences for naturally born US citizens vs. naturalized US citizens.

Maybe I should say that it's not easy for natural citizens to lose their US citizenship. There're certainly cases where naturalized citzens lose their citizenship (examples are people revealed to be Nazi wartime criminals).
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 07:45 AM
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My husband and baby each have 3 citizenships (US, Ireland and UK).

Although there are a few exceptions for certain countries, the US does not have a problem with its citizens maintaining dual citizenship. The information, Elizabeth, that you found is vauge on purpose. The US govt doesn't want to be seen as either encouraging or discouraging people from holding more than one passport, so they just sit on the fence.

The only possible negative of holding more than one citizenship is that if you're ever, say, kidnapped while abroad, and you hold both Irish and US citizenship, either country could say they won't get involved because the other country is responsible for their citizen. Chances of this are obviously slim.

You must always enter the US on your US passport, and, for you, Italy on your Italian passport.
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 07:51 AM
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Actually, Ann41, it can work in your favor as well. My father in law is German by birth, but also is a naturalized Canadian and American. During the first Gulf War, he and my mother in laws were hostages, captured in Kuwait and taken up to Baghdad. The U.S. did a poor job of handling the hostage situation (long story and I won't get into it here) but my in-laws were able to get very valuable help from the Canadians. My mother-in-law got out pretty quickly with most of the other women hostages, but my father-in-law was held longer. However, because he was German by birth, he was allowed to leave before the American and Canadian hostages on the last seat left on the Lufthansa flight chartered by the German government to rescue the German hostages.
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 07:55 AM
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1. Most countries assess income tax based on residency, not citizenship; in other words you do not pay tax if you are a citizen but are not resident in that country. However, some countries like the US assess based on citizenship alone, and moreover, some countries may add this in the future if they see a lot of their citizens earning income while resident in other countries. You would not want to be paying tax in a country in which you are not resident, it is bad enough that the US does it. At the present time, Italy does not tax based on citizenship, only residency. Canít say that will always be the case.

2. I donít think it is so easy to get out of military duty by completing a form. If you have specific knowledge about Italy that is one thing, but I live in Switzerland and am not aware that this can be done here to get out of military duty. If your husband is of draft age for Italy you would want to get specific advice from a trusted source on this. Also you would need to confirm whether Italian citizenship would automatically be granted to any children you have (regardless of where they are born) as I imagine you would not want your children to have to do military service.

3. Becoming a citizen of another country generally requires that you swear allegiance to that country; frankly I have never understood how one person can swear allegiance to two countries. From my reading of the US State Dept website, I believe that if you became a citizen of North Korea, Cuba, Iran and a few other countries (possibly Libya), the US would seek to revoke your citizenship.

4. Voting in an election is not a red flag, as far as I know. Many countries give long-term residents, not just citizens, the right to vote in elections. I am not aware of any issue the US government has with this. For example, permanent residents of Hong Kong (7 years or more) can vote in elections.

5. You do not need to be a citizen of a country to live and work there. While finding employment can be challenging, it is not impossible. You can also get student visas and long-term visas without having to work. If your spouse is employed he would have a work permit and you would have a dependentís permit, so both could stay long term. Finally, having citizenship does not really make getting a job any easier, in my experience, as if you donít have the skills and/or language capability an employer is looking for then you are not any more desirable just because you are a citizen. I have worked overseas for 15 years and have yet to find a country where getting a work permit, provided you have an employer to sponsor you, is at all a problem. In the ordinary course of working overseas, you donít need citizenship. Citizenship is helpful if you want to live long-term without a job, to purchase or rent property or to transfer property by will or divorce.
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 08:01 AM
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Instead of speculating about what the application might say, you can download the form and look at the "acts and conditions" paragraph. http://travel.state.gov/pdf/DS-0082.pdf

Don't you have to get Italian CITIZENSHIP in order to be issued an Italian passport? I don't think you can get the passport without he citizenship.

Once you're a citizen, you probably need to be aware that if laws affecting the rights and obligations of "Italians" living outside of Italy change and become more onerous, you may be stuck. So even if there seem to be no practical and legal disadvantages at the moment, you probably shouldn't count on things staying the same for the rest of your life. For example, it is conceivable that the tax laws could change at some point, making you subject to Italian income taxes on income earned outside Italy, especially if you reside a certain amount of time in Italy.

All the people I know who have acquired or are trying to acquire citizenship in the countries of their ancestry are either Italian or Irish. I never hear of people of other ethnicities seeking this kind of citizenship.

Just out of curiosity, I looked into it a few years ago and found that I'd be eligible for Italian citizenship. The disdavantgaes, to me, are subjective and abstract, rather than practical or legal. I just don't "feel" like someone who should be an Itlian citizen. I have a great attachment to Italy--the place, the language, the food, the folklore, and to my ancestry--but not to Italy as a political entity. I'm also just uneasy with the concept of citizenship with no obligations attached. My feeling is that, if I were to acquire Italian citizenship, I should then become an informed citizen and vote and somehow have a stake in ups and downs of the way Italian affairs are run and contribute to the country's economic welfare. It would seem insulting to Italy just to have the citizenship, while taking no part in the life of the country and assuming no obligations. But I just don't want to have to do that, because, despite my sense of being a part of a world bigger than my town, my state, my region, and my country, and all my enthusiasm for things Italian and for getting to know the people and customs and history of the little towns where my grandparents were born, politically I don't feel anything other than American, and one nationality is enough for me. It would be different if I owned a home in Italy and spent a large part of every year there, or if I worked there for part of the year and had a stake in the country's economy and political system. But, since I don't, for me, it would feel false and shallow to acquire citizenship just for the fun of it, or to enjoy discount available only to citizens, or to bypass long lines at passoort control. And I can just imagine my grandparents thinking that it would be such a crazy idea.
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 08:08 AM
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This is outside of the scope of this discussion, but I think that the IRS assesses taxes on your worldwide income as long as you're a US permanent resident (not just a US citizen) who's residing or not residing in the US. (Ordinarily US permanent residents would have to live in the US to avoid losing permanent residence, but there could be exceptions -- sent abroad by a US company, for example.)

Typically there're also tax reciprocity laws, as far as I understand it. If you need to pay taxes in the US and in the UK, for example, you'll not need to pay more than the maximum of the taxes you'd be required to pay in either country. But of course, best to consult a knowledgeable lawyer/accountant about this.
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 08:41 AM
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Not sure if this adds anything to the discussion...I hold US and Irish citizenship. When I worked for the US government I declared my Irish citizenship as part of obtaining security clearance. Nobody had a problem with it. I've renewed my passport seeral times without a problem.
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 08:54 AM
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This is turning out to be a really interesting thread. Thank you all for reponding so far!

highlege - did you get citizenship to Ireland the way I am referring to in Italy or have you had it your whole life (meaning that if papers were filed they were filed when you were a child)?

Cicerone - I agree with you that the military issue probably isn't as easy as the websites make it sound. We'd have to look into that. I wasn't worrying about it yet though because I was thinking of all the other isses that came to mind. That could, of course, end up making up our minds.

And I hadn't thought about the fact that Italy's tax laws could change making us have to pay taxes there.

Right now our biggest concern is the affect it could have on our American citizenship. If we get serious about this, we'll definetely talk to lawyers, etc.

Sounds like a few of you have dual citizenship without any problems. And some of you have even worked for the government (so obviously the government didn't see you as a big threat).

Does anyone know of other or more online resources to look at? I feel like more information is always better.

More comments are welcome.

Thanks again!

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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 08:57 AM
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My husband and I have dual American and EU citizenship and we had some of your same concerns before our paperwork was completed, Elizabeth Anne. I agree with St. Cirque in that it has not caused us any grief having both passports, but has rather afforded us benefits.

The military duty is one of the main items that concern most people and that is fairly easily solved if you are over the age of active duty. However, if you are not, then that is a concern you would have to address. We didn't think it could really come to pass when we applied for our EU passport, but once the Iraq War began, we felt differently about it. Now my husband is approaching 45 and we don't feel that in our small part of the world this will ever be an issue for us. If it is at some point, however, we will address it at that time.

As others have said, it has also been my understanding that in most cases you have to literally denounce your American citizenship in order to lose it. I've read books on dual nationality and they pretty much sum it up the same way. It can be difficult to give up your US citizenship since it is a formal process. It's not something that would happen w/o your realizing it and if it comes down to it, you can always denounce the other nationality.

With regards to applying for or renewing a US passport, that last line request does, in fact, ask you to list any other country that you have become a citizen of. I wasn't sure how to read this either, until I contacted our local US consulate and was told that it does apply to natural born US citizens who have obtained citizenship of another country.

Wanting to be honest in our application, my husband and I both listed our EU passport as newly acquired citizenship. Our new US passports arrived in less than three weeks and we were never questioned about it, nor are we questioned each time we enter the US.
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Old Jan 31st, 2005, 09:00 AM
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Statia, just to clarify what you wrote -- the restriction does apply to natural born citizens?
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