Dual Nationality

June 23, 2009 By: erik Category: News, Offspring, Photos, Politics, Spain, USA 16,564 views

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I Have Dual NationalityAccording to the laws of my native country, the United States of America, I will never be eligible for dual citizenship. If I apply for Spanish citizenship, I will automatically lose my US citizenship. This is not true, however, of my daughter. She has Spanish citizenship by birth, and can apply for US citizenship as the child of a US citizen. Because she did not actively request her non-US-citizenship, but acquired it automatically, she is allowed to hold both Spanish and US citizenships. While I do not know exactly what legal ramifications this will have on her banking or taxes, I think that in the long run many more things in her life will be facilitated by having dual citizenship than hindered by it. So, on June 1, 2009, we visited the US Embassy in Madrid and registered her to be a US citizen.

A funny thing occurred when her passport arrived in the mail. She and her mother were out for a walk, and the doorbell rang. I answered it and the guy said he had a package from the US Embassy in Madrid. I immediately knew what that was and buzzed him up. When he got to the door, he informed me that I had to pay 10.15€ in C.O.D. shipping charges. I said, “One moment,” and went to get my wallet. It was then that I realized that I didn’t have any money. You know how some days you run out of cash in your wallet and forget to go to the bank to fill it back up? That’s what happened to me that day. I managed to scrape together six 1€ coins, and then found two more in a drawer. I told the guy, “Look, man, I’ve got 8€ here. Hold on a minute and I’ll go look upstairs. There’s sure to be a couple coins lying around up there.” He said, “Nevermind, I’ll pay the other 2.15€, just sign here and give me the 8€” Whew! I mean, jeez, it’s not like you should be required to have money on hand when you’re home alone! Anyway, we finally got Nora’s passport.

Nora's DNI

Nora’s official national ID card for Spain. The woman who processed our application was a little concerned because she wasn’t looking directly at the camera in the photo. C’mon! The same woman never once looked to see that the baby we were carrying was the same as the one in the picture. Photo IDs for infants are such a ridiculous idea anyway since all babies look more or less alike. And it’s valid for five years. What a joke!

This document came in very handy on our flight to Madrid. In theory she didn’t really need any documentation, but the airline staff were very happy that she had some.

Nora's US Passport

Nora’s US passport. We used a photo that I took on her two-month birthday. In case you were wondering, the US Dept. of State does not mind you using a fairly heavily photoshopped photograph for your passport. I removed a lot of shadow from the background.

Consular Report of Birth Abroad

This document is almost more important than her passport. It’s the paper that gives her official US citizenship and serves as her birth certificate for any transactions in the United States. “Official” Spanish birth certificates consist of a photocopied handwritten page of an official registry book. We Americans prefer more fancy borders and seals.

In theory her US Social Security card will be mailed to us sometime the the next few months.

I Have Dual Nationality

This is an infant bodysuit that I designed for her. Order yours today! It’s still a little too big for her, but I made her wear it for this blog post.

I Have Dual Nationality

Posing with her Spanish ID card and US passport.

I Have Dual Nationality

You want ID? Oh, I got ID! You want the one with the birdie or the tilde?

The observant among you may have noticed an interesting detail about Nora’s surname(s). You see, in Spain, everyone has two surnames. We originally filled out all the paperwork for her US passport using both surnames. But when we got to the embassy, the woman there strongly suggested that we put a hyphen between them, otherwise the Americans would get confused. And don’t we know it! Both Marga and I have had much, much hassle in foreign countries because they don’t understand the surname customs of our own countries. So, in the spur of the moment, fueled by a strong distaste for hyphenated surnames, we decided that, in the US, Nora will only have one surname, and in Spain she will have two. The embassy woman told us that this decision was highly unusual, but Marga and I both agree that it’s for the best. Our experience tells us that the difference of name in both countries will actually make things easier rather than harder.

  • José

    I think if I ever move to the US I will keep just my first surname as the custom dictates there.

    • Brenda Quinones

      My kids have both, and the us passport has the first surname only and the spanish both.

      • Tarun

        hello …. i have Spanish passport . but i want to work in U.S can i take U.S citizenship also with my Spanish …?

        • No. The US makes you renounce any other citizenships.

          • Mario

            Suppose that I am a natural born citizen of Mexico, but at birth, my parents were both natural born citizens of the United States of America, so in turn, at birth I was a citizen of the United States of America.

            Suppose I have both a Mexican passport and a U.S. passport. Suppose I enter Spain with my Mexican passport, and reside their for two years.

            I then apply for naturalization. Since the Spanish government only knows and considers me a citizen of Mexico (and because they let you hold citizenship in iberoamerican countries if you were born there), they would grant me citizenship without making me revoke any country’s citizenship.

            The United States has no idea (I was acting in my capacity as a citizen of Mexico), and doesn’t care. The Spaniards have no idea I’m American, and are perfectly ok with me retaining Mexican citizenship. The Mexicans could care less about the whole shebang and keep quiet about it all.

            Does this sound reasonable to you?

          • While that does sound reasonable, the US Government is not always reasonable. As far as I know, the US is the only country that taxes the income of its citizens no matter where in the world they are earning it. That would lead me to believe that “The US has no idea and doesn’t care,” might not be the truth.

            You could be correct though. I am certainly no citizenship lawyer.

          • Dave B.

            There’s no such thing as a “natural born citizen of Mexico.” NOBODY is ever born a citizen of Mexico.
            As long as you do so without knowing intent to renounce US citizenship, the United States doesn’t care if you acquire another nationality or citizenship.

  • Will Nora get a Spanish passport as well?

  • I didn’t know that babies here got ID cards? I thought the ID cards weren’t issued until the child is a teenager? Or are you guys just being super organised? I say this because I remember a couple of years back someone I know here travelled by plane to Valencia with her teenage daughter, who in the course of the holiday turned 14 (or maybe 15) and they were refused boarding on the flight back because the daughter was too old to travel on her mother’s identity card, and she didn’t have one of her own. They had to catch the train back!

  • Yes, José, that’s what usually happens, but sometimes they ask to see an official document that has both surnames and they get confused. You’ve got the right idea, though. Don’t try to maintain both.

    Yes, Betsy, she will get a Spanish passport. But for the time being her ID card is plenty. She can travel throughout Europe with it. We will wait until closer to when we travel abroad to apply for her passport. It’s a pretty trivial process once you have the ID card.

    Yes, mondraussie, they do kiddie DNIs. I think that Nora probably could travel under her mother’s ID for a while, but I don’t know how long and I feel more comfortable with her in the system.

    On a side note, the US Embassy said that we had up until her fifth birthday to register her birth and get her citizenship. But again, I’m happier having it done already.

  • Chiara got her first passport when she was a couple of months old and it’s only due to be renewed this year, which means hers still has the photo of her as a baby. What makes me laugh is when customs staff actually do check her face against the document to see if it’s the same child.
    Also: “I made her wear it for this blog post.” I can see that phrase being used quite a lot in the years to come…

  • You know that I find this sort of post interesting. What fun to see Nora’s vital documents!

    I’m curious to know: is Nora’s Spanish citizenship by virtue of her mother’s nationality, or the soil underlying the hospital? Our boys, both born in Slovenia, were not eligible for citizenship there, but could obtain passports from each parent’s country.

    I find it odd that the U.S. is so open to granting citizenship to anyone who by chance happens to be born there, or abroad of a citizen-parent, yet is so illiberal regarding dual citizenship for natives. Our kids have dual citizenship through dumb luck; why can’t we have it via thoughtful application?

  • Sgazzetti, I honestly don’t know if her Spanish citizenship is from the hospital’s soil or her mitochondrial DNA. I always assumed the former, but it’s quite possible that it’s the latter.

    I can sort of understand that the US would not want to let you retain citizenship if you are actively seeking the citizenship of another country. It’s kind of like marriage infidelity. If they let you, how many should they let you collect?

    Without thinking about it too much, the ideal situation in my mind would be that you are a citizen only of the country of your birth, but you can legally live and work without hassle in the country where your parents or your current spouse were born. And you should only pay taxes and be allowed to vote in the country where you have residence. But that’s complicated and there are probably issues I’m not considering.

    I do like that the US specifically says that it does not make dual citizenship holders choose one citizenship when they turn 18. What a dumb law that would be. The fact that they explicitly state it means that it must be a prevalent law.

  • Elli

    I applied for and was granted Swiss nationality several years ago, making me a dual citizen. Last time I checked US policy (oh so long ago) it was vague, generally saying they reserved the right to revoke your US citizenship, but it wasn’t automatic. Just this November I had to renew my passport and sign the form which included a declaration that I hadn’t become naturalized in another country, but if so provide a statement explaining the situation. I gave them my reasons, said I didn’t intend to give up my US citizenship and they sent me a new passport. So far so good.

    • Abby

      I have a question for Elli. Did you have to notarize your “explanatory statement under oath”? I ask because I need to renew my US passport, but I’m also going to apply for Spanish nationality in the near future, so I think I should provide an explanatory statement about my situation. Will a signed, written statement on plain paper be acceptable? Thank you in advance.

      And thank you Erik R. for this post. The post and comments have been very helpful!

      • Abby

        Just want to update my comment in case anyone who read it was curious.

        I realized after posting my question that the term “under oath” implies the need to notarize. So, that’s what I did. I typed up a brief statement and took it to a notary public where I took an oath that my statement was true. I submitted the notarized statement with my renewal application and I now have a new passport!

  • Glen

    As a member of of a family of 5 with Dual citizenship (birth and naturalization), I think you may want to dig a little deeper on your understanding of whether you yourself can hold dual nationality. The following link will point you to what the supreme court have to say on the matter – http://www.richw.org/dualcit/law.html. My wife also confirmed this with the US embassy in London before she took British citizenship (in 1998).

    Here is an extract related to a 1980 supreme court case….

    even if such an action (naturalization in another country) were voluntarily performed, it would still be necessary to show that the individual did so with the intent of giving up citizenship.

    The Terrazas holding regarding intent was eventually incorporated into the text of the Immigration and Nationality Act by Congress in 1986 (Public Law 99-653). ‘

    • even if such an action (naturalization in another country) were voluntarily performed, it would still be necessary to show that the individual did so with the intent of giving up citizenship.

      Interesting. It sounds like the burden of proof is placed on the US State Department rather than on the lowly expat. I got my understanding from this page on the Madrid US Embassy website:

      The automatic acquisition or retention of a foreign nationality does not affect U.S. citizenship; however, the acquisition of a foreign nationality upon one’s own application or the application of a duly authorized agent may cause loss of U.S. citizenship.

      While it does say “may cause loss” rather than “will cause loss”, it seems a bit risky to try. I’d rather not piss off the US State Dept.

      As I see it, the only thing that obtaining Spanish citizenship would do for me is allow me to vote. All the other rights are already afforded to me as a resident. I may be wrong about that, though.

  • Erik Javorsek

    my dad is a us citizen, and he acquired British citizenship without loosing the us. well, us was a neutral country about dual citizenship. But the new rules require one to inform the us consulate that they acquired another c. and they must use their us passport while entering / leaving the us territory. So they allow one to acquire another citizenship without loosing the previous one, as long as the country you’re acquiring its citizenship allows it. My friends mom needed to renounce us c. before acquiring dutch c. – for ex. Slovenia does not allow dual c if not by bith too.
    I dont know about spain but – u can get a new citizenship without the need to renounce us c.

  • Sofia

    there are 3 ways of becoming american:

    By birth: solis, you are born in the us or in an airplane or shuttle belonging to the us.

    By blood: Mother or father

    by naturalization: for aliens

    She is american by blood so No ITS HER CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to be american.

    And by constitution you cannot ever stop being american,

    some countries like mexico in 1980, when I was born, asked you to resign to ur us nationality if you wanted to be mexican.

    I was born in HOUSTON TEXAS in 1987

    WHen i was 13 and asked for a mexican passport I was asked to renounce to my american nationality

    “i went to the Us embassy and they gave my a piece of paper that said ” you are no longer american”

    the girl who gave it to me laughed so hard and said. that I will never ever stop being american . Now that is allowed to have more than one nationality…I am still american and mexican

    I cant lose either ever…it s my right…and NO YOU CANT GET IN TROUBLE BECAUSE ONE HAS NO AUTHORITY OVER THE OTHER

    So no worries about NORA

  • Tm

    I was born in the U.S Virgin Islands but my parents are from another caribbean island (they were on vacation to St.Thomas when I was born) I am therefore an American citizen by birth, but because I lived in Dominica (my parents’ birth country) since after my birth, I consider myself a dominican. Recently my cousin and I went and got our Dominican passports. It’s really cool when you realize that you belong to two countries..in your daughter’s case, she has access to 2 of the world super powers 🙂

  • Sofia_sofocli

    Hello, I applied for spanish citizenship for my daughter, she was born in spain her father is US citizen and I am a British citizen. Is it the same case with your daughter? because the spanish have told me she can not have spanish citizenship… is that true?

    • Alexjavorsek

      Birth in spain does not necessarily mean spanish citizenship. But your daughter is also british by birth so she shouldnt have any problems related to residence permits as both spain and the uk are eu members.

  • Patrick

    i am currently a usa citizen and want to see if there are any pros or cons to being a citizen of spain. i have visited many times and would like to retire there ans also maintain a home in usa. basically a back and forth dwelling as i have children here. please advise. also from a financial perprective

  • Julian

    Congratulations to Nora!  I am in a similar situation but reverse.  I was born American and want Spanish citizenship.  I have to go to Embassy to swear to the King and “la bandera” but am anxious about being required to give my passport.  Can they take it away from me!?  I think my Social Security number and drivers license will still be okay and I will be an American in every other regard, but the passport situation really irks me. 

    • Maria

      I used to live in Europe and I had to do this and they did not take away my passport or any other document. all they did was make me sign a paper saying that I did not longer want to be American. But they know that I you’re not going to be silly enough to renounce to it. I now live in the US and have both passports

  • Bawa

    I never tried the dual nationality trick, because if the child was born in Spain and had automatic Spanish nationality, you were allowed to hold dual nationality with only certain countries (mostly ex-colonies).
    However, I do know people who have both, for themselves and their children, but I do not know if it has been any help.
    For instance, the biggest use for me would be not to need a Visa to visit my home country. But how would I manage that? It would require me to show my Spanish passport when I leave and enter Spain and my hypothetical other passport when I arrive and leave my destination.

    But that is impossible, because they will require to see the emigration/immigration stamp and I would not be able to show that on two different nationality passports!

    Some other friends thought that having dual nationality would allow their children to qualify as home/EU students for University purposes – less fees in the UK, for instance, even though they live away. But of course the authorities looked at the school-leaving certificate, and demanded a certain amount of residence in order to qualify: and you can hardly claim to be resident in Europe and go daily to school 12000 kms away!

    Older people had dual nationality for their kids to avoid military service.

    I am sure their are many advantages, just that from a practical point of view I have not been able to find any as yet.

    Correct me if I am wrong Eric, but a friend’s son who has US nationality has had to move back to the US with his mom to attend high school, as he wants to go to a US university in the future. And apparently you need to have done your last 3 years in a US school in order to have good chances of being considered for a good college/scholarship etc.??

    • I have no idea, but thanks for another thing to worry about. 🙂

      My wife and I had complications when applying for jobs in the UK because a lot of application forms wanted A-level scores, which neither of us had, being educated in other countries. I imagine that requesting financial aid from a university would be similarly awkward, but ultimately doable.
      And thank you for your lovely, insightful comment.

      • Bawa

         Sorry!!!!  At least A-level and other scores are no longer a worry in the EU for now, because all University/HE institutions in Europe now accept all European school-leaving certificates – they even have the entrance scores they require for all countries as routine.
        Good things about the Bologna Agreement that somehow never make it to the press.

        The main problem is knowing what your child is going to want to study/be good at in the future. Because then I would have had them learn German or Swedish rather than English!

  • dany

    My son is 1 year and 7 months. I had him here in Spain and I am a U.S. citizen. They told me to register him in the US embassy in Madrid to get his U.S. passport and have him have a double nationality like your beautiful baby! Whas it hard? I mean the whole process? I am planning a visit to San Diego, CA to see my family, did it take too long? I am going to call the embassy for all my questions of course, but just thought that maybe having info from someone who already did all this might be of more help. Thanks!

    • It was as easy as any dealing I’ve ever had with an embassy, which is to say, bureaucratic and time-consuming. I don’t recall exactly how long it took, but this post was the day before she turned three months old.

  • Andres M

    Hey I have question…
    Is it possible to have a spanish (Spain) citizenship?
    I am a native born Mexican and I live in the United States holding my US citizenship?
    Can I HAVE 3 citizenships? Mexican, American and Spanish?

  • JD

    My mother was born in Spain but became a U.S. Citizen. Would I, having been born in the U.S., be eligible for dual citizenship?

    • jacobly

      You are eligible for Spanish citizenship based on your mother’s citizenship and you have it easier since you don’t have to renounce US citizenship to get it.

  • Mrs.Felicia Wong

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    I am Mrs. Felicia Wong a Korean American. I am the wife to late Mr.

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    passed away after a brief illness that lasted for only four days

    January 28, 2008 Before his death we were both born again Christians

    and we lived happy married life for 15 years through without a child

    Since his death, I decided not to re-marry or get a child outside my

    matrimonial home which the Bible is really against it. I inherited

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    My late husband concealed the gold dust and bars in a metallic safe

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    Mrs.Felicia Wong

  • Eloy

    Great article! However I had a question regarding the ressignation of your American citizenship in case you wanted to get the spanish one… Would that mean that after that resignation you would have to get a tourist visa if you wanted to visit the US or would you be able to still keep the US passport when in the States and use the spanish one in Spain merely for identification purposes (since in order to be identified in Spain a US passport is not valid)? Thanks and keep it up!

  • Maria

    Hi, I am currently living in the US and I obtained my Spanish citizenship because of my mother, however they made me “resign” my US citizenship in order to obtain my Spanish passport when I was living in Europe. Now I moved back to the US and I was told I have to register at the Spanish consulate here in the US but I am scared that by doing so they will take away my passport as they need proof of a valid document me living in the US (VISA) but since I dont’ have a visa will that cause problems?

  • Jen

    Dear Erik,
    As I was browsing for information about babies born of US Citizens parents residing in Spain I found your blog as the only great source among many other that just copy paste the law and don’t share real experiences. Two questions arise from contrasting information, a) Is your wife also American b) Did you need to wait for 1 year of residence after the birth of your baby in order to be able to register her as Spanish Citizen? (I read there is a law that states 1 year of residency for those born of foreign parents in Spanish soil) My husband and I are american, however I am also Peruvian and are planning to relocate to Spain for a few years, for extended reasons I have the right to reside there. We are just planning the right timing because I am recently pregnant and would love that our baby was born there and that she/he would be able to have dual citizenship (Spanish-US) as well. From all I read I got the impression that I (as her mother/representative) would have to choose one or the other, but if it is necessary to wait 1 year to register as Spaniard, she wouldn’t have any citizenship during that time, do you know? All I read leads mt to think that it would be best to get the Spaniard citizenship first and later claim US citizenship. I look forward to hear from you. Thank you!

    • a) No, she’s Spanish
      b) I don’t think so, but you do have to have your Libro de Familia and all the Spanish documentation in order, so you can’t just swing by the embassy on the way home from the hospital.

      • Jen

        Thanks for kindly sharing.
        Regards 🙂