What is the scoop on dual citizenship? (specifically NZ, USA but also in general)

The recent escapades with the ballon bot made me realize that I may be more vulnerable than I thought regarding my wife’s citizenship. If my wife or I were to get into some trouble, the authorities could potentially threaten her with deportation. I’m not expecting such trouble, but who ever does?

It seems that both NZ and USA recognize dual citizenship. Are there any downsides? Should I eventually have my daughter apply for NZ citizenship? She seems to qualify. Could I eventually apply for NZ citizenship? I don’t think I generally qualify, but if the situation changed such that I could. I presume if we were to move there that I would eventually qualify.

In general, how does dual citizenship work?

just to clarify: if your wife is a citizen of this country, she won’t be getting threatened with deportation. the thing with baloon boy is that apparently the wife was not a US citizen

typically spouses only qualify for immigration benefits + reduction in residency time necessary to be naturalized, so you can’t automatically become a Kiwi without completing their (reduced and easier) naturalization procedure. NZ law may differ, but that’s usually how it goes.

usually, people afforded citizenship on birth do not have to “apply” in the sense that there’s a process. if she’s NZ by birth, then she doesn’t have to do anything about that (think about it here: a child in this country doesn’t have to “apply” for citizenship). if you want her to have a passport from NZ or you contemplate her needing to move to NZ, that’s when you would probably want to assess whether it would be worth your time or effort to gather the requisite documents from the government (typically a document from NZ that recognizes her citizenship - much like you have a birth certificate generated by the government)

apart from that, dual citizenship “works” really in the most superficial ways for the vast majority of people. if you’re a citizen in the country in which you live, being a national of another country won’t really affect your life. it’s nice to carry a passport of your 2nd nation if you travel back-and-forth alot, but if you’re not then there’s nothing really that changes. except taxation. certain countries (this one in particular) will tax a citizen’s income regardless of the source.

Dual Citizenship FAQ: Dual Nationality and United States Law

Yes, this is why I’m interested in having my wife become a US citizen. She is here legally.

Thank you Duckster, I’ve been to that website. From what I can tell, there are no drawbacks to dual citizenship, but often the real story is more complicated. That is why I was asking here.

Well, if New Zealand suddenly declared war on Antarctica and drafted all its citizens, your wife would be impressed if she happened to touch NZ soil, even if only passing through NZ on the way somewhere.

If a dual citizen has responsibilities to one citizenship, the other citizenship will generally say, “So sorry. We can’t do anything. It’s an internal matter between Country X and one of its citizens.” Maybe military service is rare, but think about taxes.

no there are probably no real drawbacks then.

well as she’s a resident here and she’s contemplating acquiring US citizenship, the taxation situation won’t change. (unless they move abroad, of course)

I have British citizenship because my father (my parents) were born in Britain. So I am automatically a British citizen. I assume NZ is similar. Naturally, since I was not born there, the rules don’t apply if I have offspring. Unless they are born there, they don’t get to be citizens. (actually “subjects”).

Most countries in some way acknowledge the children of their citizen as also citizens. Some countries, you will lose your citizenship if you naturalize in another country, some you don’t. There used to be stories in the news about places like Greece, where kids born there and left at age 1 or 2 go back for a visit and are immediately sent to do their basic training and mandatory armed service. Also, kids in Canada born in the USA when there was the Vietnam War draft - go south for a visit, get charged and arrested at the border.

The only bothersome thing is that Canada asks what other countries you are citizens of, on its passort declaration. Technically a passport is property of the country issuing, and Canada cannot for example demand your British passport to prevent you from travelling - but they know about it.

Having British citizenship means I can work anywhere in the EU, not a perk to sneeze at if you are adventurous. I can also bypass most immigration/customs lines going into the EU; but since my wife can’t, I usually use by Canadian passport and take the foreigners line.

As far as taxes - in Canada, for example, and many other countries - you do not have to pay taxes if you do not live there. What consitutes residency - that’s where the details become picky - how long you spend each year, do you own property, have assets, does it look like you’re coming back or have you “severed all ties”? Keeping an RRSP alive (Canadian equivalent of 401K or IRA) is for example, proof that you have not severed ties or may intend to come back. Otehrwise, you pay taxes the last year when you leave, and that’s it until the year you return.

Many complaints in Canada when Israel invaded Lebanon a few years ago. Large numbers of Lebanese had come over and gotten Canadian citizenship, then after several years when the civil war ended, went back home. Suddenly there’s new chaos, and people who had been gone from Canada for a decade or more demanded that “their country” come and get them out; since western countries had the clout to get their people out of the war zone safely. Canada spent millions to evacuate what were essentially regular lebanese citizens.

So I can’t see where it hurts to be a dual citizen.

There are potential drawbacks. It’s just a matter of how you address them. Whenever I enter the US or Australia I only make available the appropriate passport. Customs and immigration need not know the existence of any other passport I’m carrying. Australian customs and immigration can plainly see on an Australian passport where I was born (USA) and don’t care. They see these kinds of passports all the time. My US passport has nothing in it to indicate any Australian connection. The only potential here is if US customs and immigration were to ask upon entry how I could be in Australia for a period of time since my US passport contains no Australian visa, at that point I would inform them of dual citizenship. In turn, that may cause the officer to question further. Years ago, they had stock questions to grill you under the assumption that possessing dual citizenship was unacceptable and that you gave up your US citizenship. That type of questioning is far and few between now.

The other potential drawback is tax notification. Last time I checked both countries imposed a worldwide tax notification on income earned anywhere. However, as a current non-resident of Australia, I have no current tax liability.

A hidden plus with dual citizenship with Australia is an easier time obtaining a work visa in any Commonwealth country and much of the EU, or so I’m told.

Straight Dope Staff Report:
How do you become a dual citizen? (January 22, 2008)

My experience: I (and my sons) have dual citizenship from birth. I (and my sons) were born in the USA but from Swiss parents. We have USA citizenship by virtue of the fact that we are born in the USA, and have Swiss citizenship by virtue of the fact that one of the parents is Swiss (in my case, both my parents were Swiss, in my sons’ case, one parent is Swiss). We all have two passports and when travelling I can show either one. However, if I show the “wrong” one, that can sometimes cause questions. e.g. My father (also a dual citizen, Swiss from birth and naturalized US citizen) usually shows his US passport when entering the country. Once when leaving, to get on the plane to Switzerland, he made the mistake of showing his Swiss passport. The airline clerk said “how did you get in here? There is no entry visa in your Swiss passport!” The easy way would have been just to show his US passport, but my brother, impatient with bureaucracy, started arguing with the clerk saying “This makes no sense. The plane is going to Switzerland, he has the right documents to enter Switzerland, so why are you making a fuss?” Never argue with the rules if you have an easy way around it! Eventually we showed the US passport - without that I doubt my father would have been given a boarding pass by that ticket agent.

When I lived in Switzerland I was expected to fulfill all obligations of a Swiss citizen including serving in the Swiss Army. In the US the same, I would have to fulfill all obligations of a US citizen, meaning I could be drafted.

Beware of people telling you “dual citizenship works like this” or “legally you would have to give up one of your citizenships”. As far as I can tell, each country has its own rules and you can’t generalize. The only way to get an accurate answer is to specify “how does dual citizenship work if one citizenship is from country A and the other from country B”? It also would depend on which citizenship was acquired first, and how you obtained the second.

Taxes will be a downside if she ever decides to move back to NZ for good. If she becomes a US citizen, she will still have to file her taxes to the IRS every year, although there’s a fairly large foreign tax credit, so she probably won’t owe anything unless the income is very high.

The other potential downside is that dual citizenship may also cause difficulties if you ever need to apply for a security clearance. You’ll most likely need to give up all other passports.

Substitute “Great Britain” for “Australia” in Duckster’s post and it would apply to me. I keep waiting to get quizzed about why I have no entry or exit visas in either passport.

The only thing to check is whether the US still requires that naturalization requires renouncing previous citizenships. I know from experience that Canada does not and it is okay with both countries that I be a dual citizen. And Canada doesn’t even care whether I have a Canadian passport, so I when I show up at the Canadian border with a US passport and a Canadian citizinship ID, that’s fine. Apparently, the reverse is not okay with US authorities (I have been told, never having tried it).

Yes, if she were to become a US citizen and then move to NZ, she would be required to file US tax returns, but all her NZ taxes (there is no limit, despite what was suggested in another post) would be credits against US tax. She could always renounce the US citizenship, although the IRS claims you are required to file US returns for the ensuing ten years, but there is no practical way they can enforce that.

Are you saying taht the US did require that at one time? When was that? My father was naturalized in the 1960s and kept his previous citizenship (Switzerland).

The Dual Citizenship FAQ (linked to above by Duckster) touches briefly on this subject:

It does seem a little murky, though. Maybe Eva Luna will pop by and elaborate on the subject.

I’m a Kiwi with US green card. There are some issues regarding US social security payments and NZ Superannuation if your wife decides to retire in NZ. It’s probably not an issue unless she plans to return to NZ.

As I understand it, if I retire to NZ without becoming a US citizen then I will see nothing of the US Social Security money that I am paying now. That will become a donation to Uncle Sam. :mad:

It’s all quite complicated and confusing and comes about because of fundamental differences in the social security systems and philosophies of both countries. Many countries have treaties and reciprocal agreements for SS but the US and NZ have been unable to reach such agreement and I suspect that it’s not exactly high on the list of the US priorities. From what I’ve read, there appears to be a degree of stubbornness on both sides.

I think I can retire to NZ and collect US SS if I become a US citizen however NZ does an unusual thing and deducts any “foreign pension” type income from the NZ Superannuation payment. That is one of the objections that the US has with the NZ system.

In NZ everyone gets the same amount of $ per month from the government in retirement. It’s not related to how much you paid in. I think even a recent permanent resident non-citizen gets it.

Other than the tax issues which others have raised, there is probably no reason not to become a US citizen unless she has political or ideological reasons not to. It seems like unless she is a high income earner then the tax thing is just a matter of filing a return each year without actually having to pay anything.

Thanks MikeS, I’ve read that also before, but the fact is I have never heard of anyone being asked to give up their previous citizenship when they went through the naturalization ceremony. Of course I’ve never asked any Cold War defector asking for political asylum.

I have the distinct impression that Switzerland does not accept renunciation. But many countries (including the US) do. It is also a fact that until sometime in the 80s, just becoming a foreign citizen automatically lost you your US citizenship. There were some exceptions I will not go into. Then there were several court decisions (some going back to the 60s) whose net effect was the that only way to lose US citizenship was to renounce it voluntarily. Since Canada doesn’t require renunciation of previous citizenship, I was able to become a Canadian citizen, but only after those decisions. My older children became Canadian citizens when they were between 18 and 21 because Canada considered them adults, able to become citizens and the US considered them minors and unable to renounce. (My youngest was born here and therefore a natural born dual citizen.)

Your story sounds like that of my parents; they lived in Canada for twenty-odd years as landed immigrants before becoming Canadian citizens in the early '90s. I think their primary reason was that our extended family was still entirely in the States, and they didn’t want to jeopardize our ability to move back should it become necessary.

The Supreme Court cases prohibiting involuntary loss of U.S. citizenship, BTW, are Afroyim v. Rusk (which held that the Fourteenth Amendment did not allow involuntary rescission of citizenship) and Vance v. Terrazas (which established the standards by which one’s actions could be viewed as incompatible with U.S. citizenship.) Currently, the only ways to be stripped of your citizenship without explicitly asking the U.S. to do so are to make war on the U.S. (either by committing treason or by serving in a hostile army) or to take a “policy-level” position in a foreign government.

Previous thread on the topic. Note also the very handsome name given “special thanks” at the bottom of the staff report.