Dual citizenship (sometimes called dual nationality) or having a second passport may seem the preserve of super spies. But, everyone should consider opportunities for them and their families. There are clear benefits, even for regular people. And if double citizenship is good, is triple citizenship better? How to get multiple citizenship is a big subject, and we’ll look at some of the most used pathways. We’ll also look at some risks of dual nationalities. And we’ll answer the important questions like, “Do dual citizens have to pay taxes in both countries?”
What is multiple citizenship?
In general, when you are born the country of your birth offers you citizenship. This citizenship comes with rights and responsibilities. You can, through various pathways, gain second citizenship, third citizenship or even more. You are legally recognized as having all the rights and obligations of the countries for which you hold citizenship.
Residency and citizenship are different things. You can be resident in a country but not a citizen. Being resident means you live in the country, and have obligations there, but you don’t have the rights of a citizen. So, as a resident, you may have to pay local taxes, but only citizens can vote.
Why would you want dual citizenship?
I had the opportunity to discuss the benefits of dual nationality with Australia’s Today Show. Have a listen or read through the benefits below.
The benefits of a second passport
In summary, though, it is all down to having options and freedom. You, your family and future generations will have increased choice in how and where you work, live, travel, bank, and do business.
You’ll be able to choose which government’s support will you access. There is significantly more choice available than you would have with one passport.
See our article on the most powerful passports here.
Visa-free travel to more countries for you and your family
No matter what your passport, there are going to be countries that require you to get a visa. That process can be time-consuming and costly.
In many cases, you’ll need to pass across personal information you may not be entirely comfortable handing to a foreign government. A second passport like that of Italy, with more than 160 visa-free country partners, reduces this burden and obligation dramatically.
The visa process applies regardless of whether you are travelling for work or pleasure.
Live and work freely in more countries
Dual nationality gives you the freedom to live and work freely in all the countries of your multiple citizenships. Moreover, the passport may provide you with access to work in other regions or other countries.
For example, any EU passport gives you access to work and live freely in 29 EEA (European Economic Area) states. Another example is if you have an Australian passport, you can also live and work freely in New Zealand.
Business opportunities through dual citizenship
Additional citizenships will offer you a range of possibilities. You can start, expand, or move your business to your new country. You can add support for your business from your new government.
Markets and customers that we previously off-limits may become accessible. Countries are especially interested in attracting technology and other startups that have the potential to scale. For this reason, there are some compelling Entrepreneur and Start-Up Visa and permit programs.
Benefits of education and social security
Multiple citizenship gives you access to schools, universities and other educational facilities in two countries and sometimes two regions. That means more options for you and your family.
You would also have access to healthcare and other social securities in both countries. And dual nationality means, in the case of emergency overseas, both consulates would support and assist you if required.
You have a ready escape route with multiple passports
If the situation in your home country changes, you can leave without issue. As a country plunges into crisis, your ability to migrate can also change rapidly. Previously respected passports can suddenly become useless.
You may even have difficulty crossing the border or getting onto a plane out of the country. Foreign embassies stop processing applications. You need to prepare options before there are challenges so you can take advantage of opportunities.
Citizens of seemingly stable countries have repeatedly experienced this issue while their prepared compatriots were in a position to escape.
Your country may make foreign policy decisions that make travelling difficult or dangerous.
It’s much easier to visit Cuba as a Canadian than an American or visit Pakistan as a South African than an Indian. Similarly, it’s easier to visit Greece as a Spaniard than a Turk and any Arab country as a Russian rather than an Israeli.
Historical, current, and future foreign policy decisions will impact your freedom of movement. Multiple citizenships solve this problem for you, your family, and your descendants.
Tax optimization from dual nationalities
Once you have two, three, or more citizenships, you can more effectively structure your tax regime. You will be able to decide where you are domiciled for taxation purposes. As some countries have 0% tax rates for income earned outside their borders, this can mean a significant impact on your financial situation.
Do dual citizens have to pay taxes in both countries? In most cases, they do not. Many countries are signatories of tax treaties which mean you avoid double taxation. But in some cases, US citizens with multiple nationalities can be liable to US taxes on global income. We’ll explore this more in the section below where we address the risks of multiple nationalities.
A gift to your kids, and to future generations.
I was lucky enough to have a mother that prioritized a British passport for me when I was a kid. I inherited it from her because she had a British passport, even though up until then, I had lived in Africa my whole life. It meant I could work in the UK in my twenties, live in Australia for 15 years and now live in Spain.
Without multiple citizenships, it would have been very hard. I was lucky enough to be able to pass this gift onto my son. Have a read of the full story here. Giving future generations those options may not seem pressing to you now, but it may change everything for them.
How to get dual citizenship?
There are many ways to get dual nationality which we outline below. For another viewpoint on the options, please read Where is the easiest country to get citizenship.
A second passport through your family
Dual citizenship through direct decent
The first step to take is to look at your family tree and talk to your parents, aunties and uncles. Some countries will give you a passport through your grandparents and, in some cases even further back, than that (Italy for example).
For many people, this is how they get dual citizenship. Here are just a few countries where if you have grandparents that were citizens, you may be eligible for a second passport:
- American Samoa
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The British Virgin Islands
There are lots of other countries where you can get residency through your parents or grandparents. Significantly, after living there for a residency period, you qualify for a citizenship and a passport. Examples of these are:
- United Kingdom
- South Africa
Dual nationality to right past wrongs
Countries also offer to accelerate citizenship processes where governments of the past have discriminated against groups. Examples include World War Two where Jewish families, amongst others, were forced to flee Germany, Austria, and other countries.
Similarly, the Jewish populations of Spain and Portugal were exiled in the 1400s and 1500s. If your ancestors were forced to leave and give up their citizenship, then you may be eligible for citizenship and a passport.
Some examples of countries that offer citizenship to right past wrongs include:
Given how far back some of these programs go it is well worthwhile to have a good look through your family history. Often there may be something that offers you a pathway to dual citizenship.
Dual nationality through marriage
Most countries will offer residency and a citizenship pathway to the spouse of a citizen, and these are called marriage visas. There are also fiancé or fiancée visas offered before marriage by some countries. The exact way this is managed differs by counties.
There is a different legal recognition of what is a marriage. The definition of marriage may cover de facto relationships, same-sex marriage, overseas, marriages, common-law marriages, religious marriages, and more by jurisdiction.
Citizenship by Investment
To encourage investment into their economies, some governments offer accelerated pathways to citizenship. The Citizenship by Investment programs (CBI) and related Residency by Investment (RBI) programs are an excellent way to achieve a second passport. They are also sometimes referred to as Immigrant Investor programs. The schemes vary greatly, and it is essential to understand all critical areas of the programme clearly.
- Is it Citizenship or Residency?
If your investment gives you status as a resident, how long until you qualify for citizenship and a passport?
- What are the accepted financial obligations? Do they suit your circumstances and risk profiles? Do they allow investment into areas that you feel are worthwhile investments? What are the advantages of these investments?
Schemes can cover things like property; including your residence, commercial property, or residential investment properties. Government bonds and depositing cash into a local bank are all covered in one or more schemes. Another accessible pathway is an investment into a company (either your own or an existing company).
Be aware that some programs require payment into a government development fund. The amount is non-refundable, and so not a recoverable personal investment. There are many programs. Just a few of the countries that offer some form of Citizenship by Investment or Residency by Investment program include:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- St Kitts and Nevis
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
If you are interested in this pathway, we have a lot of detail on these programs. Start on our investment visa page.
Citizenship by Residency or Naturalisation
A very popular way to dual citizenship is to enter the country on a temporary residency or permanent residency permit or visa. After a period as a resident, you may become eligible to apply for citizenship through naturalization or residency. The period can range from 2 to 30 years.
You’ll often need to prove that you have integrated into your new country. Language tests, proof of investment into the local economy, and ties to the local economy may all be required. These show that you have earned the right to become a full-fledged citizen of your new home. This naturalization will also allow you to apply for a passport.
Dual nationality risks
There are three primary risks when thinking about accessing second citizenship or second nationality.
Do dual citizens have to pay taxes in both countries?
Most countries in the world have tax treaties. These treaties mean that you are generally liable for taxation only in the country where you are resident for taxation, regardless of your nationality. So, you will not be liable for double taxation. However, you still may have to file a tax return in both countries.
The US does allow multiple citizenships. However, you generally must file a US tax return and in many cases will be liable to US taxation on all your global income. For some people, this is enough of a reason to renounce their US citizenship and take up other multiple nationalities.
You may be obligated to your new country
As a resident you may have obligations, including national service, taxation, and residency. You and your family may have to consider how you’ll be impacted. For example, if you have an Israeli passport, you need to do national service no matter where in the world you live. US residents may need to pay US taxes on all global income.
Your original country of citizenship will not allow second citizenship or third citizenship
This may surprise you, but more than half the world’s population may not be able to have dual-citizenship. That’s right. Over 4 billion people live in countries that generally don’t allow their citizens to be a citizen in another country. But does your country allow dual citizenship?
To those of us who live in (the majority of) Europe or the Americas, this may seem strange. We are used to being able to exercise a freedom most would consider pretty normal.
As people become more and more mobile, the desire to hold second passports or live and work in another country will increase. It seems outdated to give up your inherited nationality and passport to take up citizenship of the country you may have settled.
So, which countries don’t allow dual citizenship?
The following countries either do not allow dual nationality or have strict rules in place that make it very difficult or limited. Keep in mind that rules change all the time, so double-check if you aren’t sure.
The following countries either do not allow dual citizenship or have strict rules in place that make it very difficult or limited. Keep in mind that rules change all the time so double check if you aren’t sure.
|Eritrea||Marshall Islands||East Timor|
|Estonia||Mauritania||Trinidad And Tobago|
|Georgia||Montenegro||United Arab Emirates|
Some countries make you choose which country citizenship you will hold. Just some examples of these counties include:
Many of these countries will allow dual citizens or multiple citizenships to choose after a defined period. For example, as a resident in Japan, you can keep various citizenships until the age of twenty-two. After that, you must choose between your Japanese citizenship and any other citizenships that you hold.
Some countries allow second citizenships only with selected countries. Spain is an example of this group. Spanish citizens can hold second citizenship with only the states of Latin America, Andorra, Portugal, the Philippines, and Equatorial Guinea.
Obviously, except Portugal, these countries all have historical ties to Spain. Portugal and Spain’s geographical closeness and strong community ties make it a logical addition to the list. If you take up a second passport from one of these countries, you won’t have to give up your Spanish citizenship.
Now is the best time to apply for a second passport
So now you know the benefits of a second passport, what is stopping you? Don’t wait until it is too late. Circumstances, regulations, and political situations change. Now is the ideal time to get started. There are many cases where people have been eligible for multiple citizenships. But, unfortunately, regulations have changed, rendering them unable to apply. Our advice is clear.
- Do your research now. What multiple citizenships may you be eligible for? Are there clear benefits to holding those citizenships? What do you need to access the program?
- Get professional, trusted advice. The programs are often complex and challenging for you to navigate alone. Getting your application wrong can be hugely costly in time, money, and opportunity.
- Don’t give up. Access to multiple citizenship programs doesn’t only close; new opportunities arise. If there’s no pathway for you today, don’t despair. Follow sites like Where Can I Live to keep up to date with immigration reform and changes. That way, you’ll know when an opportunity arises for you to access a second passport or even a third.