Dual Nationality

I am not going to spend much of this post explaining the legalities of dual citizenship, but contrary to widespread belief, Americans are allowed to hold more than one citizenship. So Dad and Mom, please stop asking me every time I bring up my (planned) British nationalisation if I am sure I will still be an American.

This is going to be more about my opinions on Americans who immigrate to other countries, have dual national children (children born abroad to American citizens are usually Americans at birth). They do, however, have to have their births registered by the time he or she turns eighteen. This registration doesn’t make them an American citizen, but failing to do so can complicate future claims to American citizenship, especially if they have travelled into the US on a foreign passport.

Most Americans register their kids, but a small, yet surprising number of parents don’t and refuse to use US passports for their children when entering the US. Some cite political reasons or fear of a bellicose administration trying to draft their children into a war they don’t need to fight. Some recognise the tax liabilities it creates (the US is one of the only countries which taxes its non-resident citizens). Others point to complications in holding high office in either country (although the likeliness of this being an issue is not great, and it is something that always can be resolved later when that choice is made). In any case, they always claim that it is their child and their decision.

But it’s not really. What they are doing is making future limiting decisions for their children that could be easily made by the children themselves when they become adults. If the children don’t want to be drafted, and the US government suddenly re-starts the draft for the first time in over 35 years, they can renounce their citizenship as adults. If they don’t want to pay taxes, they can consult their accountant, make an informed decision, and decide whether to renounce or not.

I cannot see the world, if we manage to navigate the challenges we face globally, becoming anything but more multinational. Having dual nationality opens more employment, travel, and educational opportunities, and really, the chance at a more multi-cultural life. The once rare and now commonplace practice of meeting future mates online is going to increase and having more options for those who happen to get involved in an international pairing is only going to make life easier for them.

This isn’t a patriotic rant. I am not questioning why anyone would specifically deny someone an American citizenship. I would feel just as strongly if there were people interfering with the nationality status of their children from other nations.

I’ve been struggling for about a half an hour to come up with a way to say what I want to say next without being rude in some way. I may not be a parent, but I was a child and had to live with the consequences of my parents’ decisions about me (some good and some bad). You don’t own your children. They aren’t “yours” any more than my husband is “mine”. You have responsibility for them, and part of that responsibility is to guide their future. But that responsibility ends at a certain point, and if you guided them correctly, they will make the right decision about dual citizenship, whether it is the decision you’d like to see them make or not.

Even if these children can manage to obtain a US passport as an adult without having to naturalise, this robs a child of part of their culture, denies their identity as a child of the world, and limits their personal view of their own potential. This would be true for any country, even if it weren’t the US. That some people think it’s justified because we’re talking about an American citizenship and American culture really baffles me.


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February 2010
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