Dual Nationality

Introduction

The Supreme Court of the United States has stated that dual nationality is “a status long recognized in the law” and that “a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both.  The mere fact that he [sic] asserts the rights of one citizenship does not without more mean that he renounces the other” (see Kawakita v. U.S., 343 U.S. 717 [1952] ).

Current Law and Policy

United States law does not contain any provisions requiring U.S. Citizens who are born with dual nationality or who acquire a second nationality at an early age to choose one nationality or the other when they become adults (see Mandoli v. Acheson, 344 U.S. 133 [1952] ).  The current nationality laws of the United States do not specifically refer to dual nationality.

While recognizing the existence of dual nationality and permitting Americans to have other nationalities, the U.S. Government does not endorse dual nationality as a matter of policy because of the problems which it may cause. Claims of other countries upon dual-national U.S. Citizens often place them in situations where their obligations to one country are in conflict with the laws of the other.

In addition, their dual nationality may hamper efforts to provide diplomatic and consular protection to them while they are abroad.  It generally is considered that while a dual national is in the other country of which the person is a citizen, that country has a predominant claim on the person.  In cases where a dual national encounters difficulty in a foreign country of which the person is a citizen, the ability of the U.S. Government to provide assistance may be quite limited since many foreign countries may not recognize the dual national’s claim to U.S. Citizenship.

Which Passport to Use

Section 215 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act ( 8 U.S.C. 1185) requires U.S. Citizens to use U.S. passports when entering or leaving the United States unless one of the exceptions listed in Section 53.2 of Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations applies.  Dual nationals may be required by the other country of which they are citizens to enter and leave that country using its passport, but do not endanger their U.S. citizenship by complying with such a requirement.

Loss of U.S. Citizenship

The automatic acquisition or retention of a foreign nationality does not affect U.S. citizenship; however, the acquisition of a foreign nationality upon one’s own application may cause loss of U.S. citizenship under Section 349(a)(1) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (8 U.S.C. 1481).  In order for loss of nationality to occur under Section 349(a)(1), it must be established that the naturalization was obtained with the intention of relinquishing U.S. citizenship.  Such an intention may be shown by a person’s statements or conduct.  If the U.S. Government is unable to prove that the person had such an intention when applying for and obtaining the foreign citizenship, the person will have both nationalities.

Information about Applying for Loss of U.S. Citizenship

Frequently Asked Questions (Dual Citizenship)

Answer: By law, U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Your child does not need and should not register for ESTA. Dual citizens should carry both valid passports (U.S. and Japan) at all times when traveling to/from the U.S. The dual citizen must present the Japanese passport when going through Japanese immigration and the U.S. passport at U.S. immigration. The only time your child presents both passports at the same time will be at the airline counter in Japan.

Answer: By law, U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. You should carry both valid passports (U.S. and Japan) at all times when traveling to/from the U.S. The dual citizen must present the Japanese passport when going through Japanese immigration and the U.S. passport at U.S. immigration. You do not need and should not register for ESTA. If you have further questions, please consult directly with the airlines.

Answer: If you have a U.S. passport, even if it has been expired for a very long time, it is still considered a “renewal.” Please check our passport renewal page (Age 16 and up / Children under 16 ) for renewal procedures, as you might be eligible to mail in your renewal application. If you wish to turn in your application in person, an appointment is required.  Please make sure you have a valid government-issued I.D. If your name has changed, please make sure you have original documents showing name change (e.g. Marriage Certificate, Court Order, etc.). If you name is different on the Japanese and U.S. passport, please provide the original U.S. Birth Certificate/Consular Report of Birth and original translation.

Answer: For information on U.S. policy on dual nationality, please read our website section on Dual Nationality. U.S. law does not contain any provisions requiring U.S. Citizens who are born with dual nationality to choose one nationality or the other when they become adults. Choosing Japanese nationality has no affect on U.S. citizenship.

Answer: Please review the checklist for First-Time Passport Applications (Age 16 and up / Children under 16 ). Along with the required documents listed, you must submit the Japanese family Register (“Koseki Tohon”) AND one valid proof of ID. Please note that you must appear in person at the interview for your passport application with an appointment.

Answer: By law, U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. We believe that there will be no particular issue traveling with different names on the U.S. passport and foreign passport, but please make sure to bring both valid passports when traveling to the United States. We also recommend you consult with the airline you are using in advance.