Citizenship and Nationality

U.S. Citizenship and Residence Abroad

U.S. citizens who take up residence abroad or who are contemplating doing so frequently ask whether this will have any effect on their citizenship. Residence abroad, in and of itself, has no effect on U.S. citizenship and there is no requirement of U.S. law that a person who is a naturalized U.S. citizen must return to the United States periodically to preserve his or her U.S. citizenship. Contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if you have any questions about nationality.

Acquisition and Loss of Citizenship

U.S. citizenship may be acquired by birth in the United States or by birth abroad to a U.S. citizen parent or parents. However, there are certain residency or physical presence requirements that U.S. citizens may need to fulfill before the child's birth in order to transmit citizenship to their child born overseas. A child born abroad in wedlock to one citizen parent and one alien parent acquires U.S. citizenship only if the citizen parent was physically present in the United States for 5 years prior to the child's birth, at least 2 years of which were after the age of 14. Living abroad in military service or U.S. Government employment, or as an unmarried dependent in the household of someone so employed, can be considered as presence in the United States. A child born out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen mother acquires U.S. citizenship if the mother was physically present in the United States for 1 continuous year prior to the child's birth. A child born out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen father must establish a legal relationship to the father before age 18 or be legitimated before reaching age 21, depending on the date of birth, if he/she is to acquire U.S. citizenship through the father. For further information on these legal requirements, consult the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Citizenship may also be acquired subsequent to birth through the process of naturalization. (For more information, contact the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security at 1-800-755-0777.)

 

Loss of citizenship can occur only as the result of a citizen voluntarily performing an act of expatriation as set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act with the intent to relinquish citizenship. Such acts most frequently performed include the following:

  • Naturalization in a foreign state;
  • Taking an oath or making an affirmation of allegiance to a foreign state;
  • Service in the armed forces of a foreign state;
  • Employment with a foreign government; or
  • Taking a formal oath of renunciation of allegiance before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer.

If you have any question about any aspect of loss of nationality, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate or the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Room 4811, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520.

Dual Nationality

A foreign country might claim you as a citizen of that country if:

  • You were born there.
  • Your parent or parents are or were citizens of that country.
  • You are a naturalized U.S. citizen but are still considered a citizen under that country's laws.

If you fall into any of the above categories, consult the embassy of the country where you are planning to reside or are presently living. While recognizing the existence of dual nationality, the U.S. Government does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries upon dual-national U.S. citizens often place them in situations where their obligations to one country are in conflict with U.S. law. Dual nationality may hamper efforts by the U.S. Government to provide diplomatic and consular protection to individuals overseas. When a U.S. citizen is in the other country of their dual nationality, that country has a predominant claim on the person. If you have any question about dual nationality, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate or the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at the address in the previous section.