This article explains whether U.S. law allows dual citizenship with other countries, the difference between dual citizenship at birth and by naturalization, and how U.S. Citizens can claim their right of Italian Citizenship under the jus sanguinis principle.
U.S. Citizenship law is based on the jus soli principle. Under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, every person born in U.S. soil is a U.S. Citizen.
The laws of other countries may confer citizenship to persons born in the United States based on the citizenship on his or her parents. For example, a child born in the U.S. from a parent that is an Italian citizen is automatically a dual citizen of Italy and the United States.
U.S. law does not formally recognize Dual Citizenship, but it does not prohibit it either. Under federal regulations, a U.S. citizen must use his or her U.S. passport for entering or exiting the United States.
Under U.S. law, a citizen of the United States is considered to have relinquished U.S. Citizenship if he or she naturalizes as a citizen of another country and intends to abandon U.S. Citizenship. The inquiry on the abandonment is a subjective one, and the U.S. Government bears the burden of proof in proving such intent.
Dual Citizenship can be acquired at birth, or can be obtained by taking the oath of allegiance to another country. In most countries of the world, one can acquire citizenship after a period of lawful residence, or by marrying a citizen of that country. For instance, Italian Citizenship can be acquired after 10 years of continuous lawful residence, or after only 2 years in case of marriage to an Italian Citizen (3 years if the couple lives outside Italy).
The case is different if someone is conferred citizenship at birth. In this case, there is no naturalization process and no oath of allegiance taken with another country. Some countries confer citizenship at birth under the jus sanguinis principle, or “citizenship by blood”.
For example, Italy recognizes citizenship at birth to people that have an Italian ancestor. The key is proving “continuity of Italian blood”. U.S. Citizens of Italian descent can claim their right of Italian Citizenship in different cases, among which the following are the most frequent:
Case #1: The applicant’s father was an Italian citizen at the time of the applicant’s birth, and the applicant never renounced the right of Italian citizenship.
Case #2: The applicant’s mother was an Italian citizen at the time of the applicant’s birth, the applicant was born after January 1st, 1948 and never renounced the right of Italian citizenship.
Case #3: The applicant’s father was born in the U.S., the applicant’s paternal grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of his birth, and neither the applicant nor his or her father ever renounced the right of Italian citizenship.
Case #4: The applicant’s father was born in the U.S. after January 1st, 1948, the applicant’s paternal grandmother was an Italian citizen at the time of his birth, and neither the applicant nor his or her father ever renounced the right to Italian citizenship.
People holding Dual Citizenship should be aware that in some instances they could be prevented from seeking emergency assistance from the United States Government.