A noncommercial collection of information about citizenship, dual citizenship and multiple citizenship

How does a person end up with a Citizenship?

Each country has its own very unique and idiosyncratic laws and rules for citizenship.  Some of the specific laws are truly amazing.  The following is a general overview of the ways that citizenship is obtained, which may help you better understand the specific rules of individual countries.

Citizenship by Place of Birth

Some countries give citizenship to children born in the country (“ius soli”).  Canada, France, Ireland, Panama and the US are examples of countries that give citizenship to almost anyone born in the country, usually excluding only the new children of foreign diplomats.  The actual citizenship is usually acquired automatically when the child was born.

Citizenship by Descent (from Parents or Grandparents)

Citizenship is often based on the citizenship of the parents or grandparents (“ius sanguinis”) at the time the child is born.  The rules can be very simple and clear, e.g. Ireland says that anyone whose parents are Irish citizens by birth is automatically an Irish citizen. The rules can also be complex or unclear.  Some countries consider only the mother's citizenship, others consider only the father's, and others are happy with either.  It may also be important whether the parents were married at the time the child was born.  The US has a mix of rules, some of which apply if citizenship is descending from the mother and others if it is descending from the father.

Dual Citizenship by Marriage

A person may automatically acquire their spouse's citizenship on or soon after marriage.

Dual Citizenship by Naturalization

If you meet certain requirements, e.g. have lived in the country for a certain number of years, then you can often apply to be a citizen.  A country may allow citizens who obtain foreign citizenship to retain their original citizenship. The country from which the person is obtaining their second citizenship may not require the person to renounce their former citizenship.

Dual Citizenship by Treaty

Some countries have agreements with certain other countries, recognizing dual citizenships among their respective populations.

Dual Citizenship by Default

A person naturalized elsewhere without the approval of the country of origin might be considered to retain their original citizenship. If the original country is not notified that another citizenship has been acquired, it is possible for both citizenships to be officially documented.  This can also happen in situations of multiple citizenship by birth or by decent, where one of the countries does not like multiple citizenship and the other has no problem with it.


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