In today’s interconnected world, holding more than one nationality is somewhat commonplace. In the United States, however, it was illegal to hold dual citizenship until relatively recently, as the law barring the practice was only overturned in 1967. There are still restrictions in place that do bar dual citizenship in certain circumstances. Still, most of the time it is perfectly legal to do so assuming you meet the other requirements for citizenship.
Often Acquired by Chance
The majority of dual nationals within the United States or its territories have acquired the status simply due to chance or relationship. Children born to U.S. nationals while they reside in other countries will almost always qualify for dual citizenship. For example, a child born in Germany to married U.S. citizen parents will qualify for both German and U.S. citizenship; the first through location of birth, the second through their parents’ fulfilling citizenship and residency requirements under U.S. law.
If the child’s parents are unmarried, the situation is somewhat more complex. If the child’s mother is a U.S. citizen, then she must have been present in the U.S. (or one of its possessions) for at least one continuous year. If the child’s father is a U.S. citizen and the mother is a foreign national, multiple criteria must be fulfilled in order for the child to be able to claim U.S. citizenship. Examples include being able to verify the blood relationship between father and child by “clear and convincing evidence” (which is a specific legal standard) and the father agreeing in writing to provide monetary support until the child reaches the age of 18.
If You Want to Apply
It is not uncommon that foreign nationals living in the United States eventually decide to become citizens, whether for personal or business reasons. If you decide you wish to apply for U.S. citizenship, you may generally do so provided that you have been a permanent resident for at least five years, with good moral character (that is, fulfilling all obligations like paying taxes as well as having no criminal record), and meet the other requirements like continuous physical presence. Some English proficiency and knowledge of U.S. history is required, but these may be waived in exceptional circumstances.
It is important to keep in mind that there are occasional problems with holding dual nationality. Obligations to one country may conflict with those of another country—for example, countries like South Korea have a mandatory military service requirement for all those who hold Korean citizenship, but U.S. law holds that if a U.S. citizen voluntarily enlists in a foreign military, it may be seen as a predicate act for renouncing his or her citizenship. Thus, someone with dual South Korean and U.S. nationality could conceivably be put at risk of losing one citizenship. It is extremely important to be aware of the risks of dual citizenship as well as the rewards.
Contact a Knowledgeable Immigration Attorney
While pursuing dual citizenship may seem impossibly complex, sometimes it can be the option that makes the most sense for a person. Consulting an attorney well versed in this area of law can be a great help in making the decision or going through the process itself. The dedicated Chicago immigration lawyers at Mevorah Law Offices LLC are happy to try and assist you. Call our office today to set up an initial free consultation.
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