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The difference between Dual US Citizenship and being a Foreign National in the United States

Have you been wondering what differences exist between being a person who has dual citizenship and a foreign national who is domiciled in the United States? Or have you always believed they are the same thing? They are two different things and in this article, each of them will be explained, including what benefits they both have.

What does it mean to have dual citizenship?

A person with dual citizenship is a citizen of two different countries at the same time. For example, a person who is a citizen of New Zealand and a citizen of the United States at the same time. While the United States grants that a person who is a citizen of another country can still be a citizen of the U. S., not all countries grant this privilege.

There are two ways in which a person can have dual citizenship. They are:

Citizenship by birth

There is a legal concept known as jus soli. Under this concept, a person is automatically granted citizenship if he or she is born within or subject to the jurisdiction of a country – regardless of the citizenship status of the parents.

If the person’s parents are non-citizens of the country where he or she was born, the person also automatically becomes a citizen of the country where his or her parents are citizens. Thus, a baby born in France to American parents will be both a French citizen and an American citizen.

Citizenship by naturalization

This is when a person voluntarily chooses to become a citizen of a country. Becoming an American citizen in addition to being a citizen of another country typically requires that you take an oath of allegiance where you renounce the citizenship you had in your former country.

However, while you may renounce your former citizenship when you take this oath, in practicality, you are still a citizen of your former country in addition to being a U.S. citizen. Thus, you have dual citizenship.  

In some countries, you can’t renounce citizenship by birth. So for instance, if you were born in New Zealand, and you become a naturalized citizen of the US, you can’t renounce your New Zealand citizenship, even if you swear an oath renouncing the citizenship.

Benefits and setbacks of having dual citizenship

Being a citizen of two countries at once has its privileges, but it also has its setbacks. One major setback dual citizenship has is that it is a complex legal process when you are trying to get it by naturalization. One major benefit it has, however, is that you own two passports which grant you the ease of access into either of the two countries.

Benefits of having dual citizenship

As a dual citizen, you enjoy the benefits and privileges offered by each of the countries where you are a citizen. This includes the following:

● You can work in both countries without needing to get a work visa first.

● You automatically access the social services system of the two countries.

● You can vote in either of the two countries, especially in the United States, where only citizens are allowed to vote in federal elections.

● You can attend school in either country at the rate offered to citizens instead of international tuition rates or getting a student visa (as is in the United States).

● You can travel between the two countries without restrictions as you have two passports and you are allowed to carry both. Hence, you don’t need to apply for long-stay visas or if you have left the U.S. for more than a year, you won’t need a re-entry permit to return. You also don’t need to answer a million questions about the purpose of your trip during the customs process. This is a privilege that not even green card holders (permanent residents) have.

● You can sponsor your family for their own green cards (parents, adult children, and siblings).

● You have access to public benefits when you need them including access to tuition assistance, provided you meet the eligibility requirements. This is one privilege that is available to only U.S. citizens.

● You can own property in either country or both countries – a useful benefit if you travel frequently between the two countries.

Setbacks of dual citizenship

You serve “two masters”

When you own dual citizenship, you are bound by the laws of both countries and sometimes, these laws can cause conflict. For example, if you are a U.S. citizen and a citizen of another country with mandatory military service, you may have a conflict in some situations.

An example is a situation where you serve as a military officer in a country that is at war with the United States.

The United States' policy recognizes the legal obligations of dual citizens to fulfill military obligations in their other country and thus, allows people to do so without putting their U.S. citizenship in jeopardy. However, you must research things carefully to understand the specifics of your situation.

Taxes in two places

The United States imposes taxes on its citizens from income earned anywhere in the world. So, if you live in New Zealand and earn your income there, you may have to pay taxes to both the United States, and New Zealand where you earned the income.

One thing to note, however, is that the U.S has tax treaties with some other countries and this serves to reduce or eliminate a person’s tax liability and thus avoid paying taxes in two places. The tax treaty overrides the income tax laws of each country.

Despite this, however, you may be required to file U.S. tax returns as a dual citizen even if your income is earned elsewhere.

Some types of employment are restricted to you

In the United States, your dual citizenship may disqualify you from some federal jobs, which often require security clearance and access to classified information which will require confidentiality.

If you got your dual citizenship by birth, however, you may not encounter as many challenges with employment as someone who got it by naturalization.

A long and complicated process

If you are trying to get dual citizenship by naturalization, it can take many years and cost a lot of money.

What does it mean to be a foreign national domiciled in the United States?

A foreign national is any person (including an organization) who is neither a citizen nor a national of the United States. That kind of person is typically not lawfully admitted for permanent residence. A U. S. national is anybody who has the irrevocable right to reside in the territory of the United States without limitation.

Being domiciled in the United States

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS), to be domiciled in the United States means to have a residence that a person intends to maintain for the foreseeable future.

Who are considered foreign nationals?

Who is considered a foreign national depends a lot on the context of the situation. Generally, like we stated above, people with permanent residence are not usually regarded as foreign nationals.

For instance, the Federal Election Commission Act generally prevents foreign nationals from participating in the United States election process either through donations or by standing for elections.

The category of foreign nationals it prohibits are:

● Foreign citizens (dual citizens are not included);

● Immigrants who are not lawfully admitted for permanent residence;

● Foreign governments;

● Foreign political parties;

● Foreign corporations;

● Foreign associations;

● Foreign partnerships; and

● Any other foreign principal, as defined at 22 U.S.C. § 611(b), which includes a foreign organization or “other combination of persons organized under the laws of or having its principal place of business in a foreign country.”  

The act here specifically excludes permanent residents from the list above. It also provides that permanent residents of the United States can make campaign donations to elections at the Federal, State and Local levels.

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Who are considered foreign nationals in the United States?

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