Twice as nice? What it means to be a ‘Dual Citizen’

Josie Smith, February 26, 2019

Defining the Term

If you hold dual citizenship, then you hold citizenship for two countries at the same time. This status is usually acquired through parentage, country of birth or marriage; however, there are also legal and financial methods for obtaining citizenship of a second nation. 


Dual nationality does confer significant benefits on an individual. Mobility is much easier as possessing a passport guarantees your right of entry into that particular country. You are not subject to acquiring long-stay visas or questions regarding your trip purpose like other travellers. Dual citizens hold the right to work in both countries and attend school without burdensome international tuition fees. Dual citizens also have more opportunities for buying properties overseas as some countries restrict property ownership to citizens only. In addition, political benefits include the right to vote in either country, and there are the cultural benefits that come from being immersed in two different cultures and possibly being able to converse in two or more languages.

Political Threats?

While dual nationality is considered widely to be an advantage, some African countries have laws in place which actually make holding second citizenship illegal. Individuals with a second nationality are regarded by politicians in these countries as potentially dangerous ‘foreign’ individuals, and therefore don’t want them participating in politics. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, children born abroad can keep both nationalities until they are 21, then they have one year to renounce one of their nationalities. A 1930 Ethiopian law states that Ethiopians acquiring another nationality will subsequently cease to be Ethiopians. Moise Katumbi, a leading Democratic Republic of Congo opposition politician, was an Italian citizen for seventeen years: for this reason, he was banned from running in the 2018 presidential election.

Obtaining Dual Citizenship: Some Examples

Family links provide the simplest and most obvious route to acquiring dual citizenship. European countries including Spain, Poland, Hungary and Ireland all offer citizenship based on ancestry. Italy also offers relaxed ancestry eligibility criteria: Italian citizenship is passed down from parent to child with no limitation on the number of generations. If you can prove descendance from an Italian citizen alive at any time after 1861 – the year the Kingdom of Italy first came into existence – then you could be eligible for an Italian passport.

History as a Route to Citizenship

Italy is not the only country that utilises the past for citizenship qualifications. Germany offers a program allowing people whose families fled the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s to reclaim their German citizenship. Spain and Portugal are offering citizenship to descendants of the victims of the 15th century Inquisition and the mass exile of Jews and Muslims that followed the end of the Reconquista in 1492. Around 10,000 special passports have been granted on these bases.

Strict Requirements

However, the route to dual citizenship is not always simple. Even if you are eligible for a passport, you may not meet all the necessary requirements laid out by the country in question. France and Germany have strict requirements for citizenship, requiring a minimum of five years residency in the country, plus proof of language proficiency, integration and a citizenship test. Marriage can offer a shortcut to citizenship in these instances, but countries often still require that you have been married and resident in the country for a certain amount of years beforehand.

The Financial Route to Citizenship

Aside from parentage and marriage, there are other methods of acquiring a second passport. The wealthy can buy passports for a pretty price, often costing millions of euros. Malta and Cyprus also offer citizenship to property investors, although Cyprus also stipulates that you need to have lived in the country for two years and pay a large non-refundable donation of €650,000.

A Recent Rise

In recent years, Brexit has had a significant impact on the number of applications for dual citizenship across the EU. Between 2016 and 2017 the number of Britons granted citizenship of another EU country increased by 158% [figures obtained by the BBC from 17 out of 27 EU member states]. Germany and France are still the two most popular nationalities among applications, each experiencing an 835% and a 226% increase respectively since the 2016 referendum.

And it’s not just British applications which have been on the rise. 13,700 people living outside the UK applied for a British passport in 2016. This number was up by a third from 2015 and double the rise between 2014 and 2015. The increase in applications for British citizenship has continued, numbering 30,000 between June 2016 and June 2017.

The benefits that dual citizenship yields and the huge increase in applications for a second passport across the EU since the Brexit referendum would suggest that when it comes to nationalities, two is better than one.

Written by Josephine Smith - Administrative Intern at Alchemy Recruitment Ltd.

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