Dual Nationality

The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy. Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizen parents may be both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the country of birth.

A U.S. citizen may acquire foreign citizenship by marriage, or a person naturalized as a U.S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of the country of birth. U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. 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.

Intent can be shown by the person’s statements or conduct. The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. citizens may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S. Government efforts to assist citizens abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person’s allegiance.

However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there. Most U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. citizenship. Most countries permit a person to renounce or otherwise lose citizenship.

Information on losing foreign citizenship can be obtained from the foreign country’s embassy and consulates in the United States. Americans can renounce U.S. citizenship in the proper form at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

Dual Nationality and Travel to Russia

Persons in Russia are subject to Russian laws and procedures. Persons who are citizens of both the United States and Russia should be aware that, while U.S. immigration law requires Americans to use U.S. passports when entering or leaving the United States, Russian law likewise requires Russian citizens to use Russian passports to enter and depart Russia.

There have been several instances in which U.S. citizens who also have Russian citizenship have entered Russia using their Russian passports, but then could not leave as planned because their Russian passports had expired during their stay in Russia, or because they lost their Russian passports. Since these travelers had not obtained Russian entry/exit visas in their U.S. passports, Russian authorities did not permit them to depart using their U.S. passports.

It can take several months to obtain a new Russian passport in order to satisfy Russian requirements for departure. Dual citizens who plan to enter Russia using their Russian passports should make sure that their Russian passports will be valid for their entire stay in Russia.