Many foreign nationals wonder whether they will be able to retain their citizenship and its benefits in their home country once they become U.S. citizens. This is known as dual citizenship, and it will depend not only on U.S. immigration laws but also on the laws of their home country. The Immigration and Nationality Act, which is the main federal law on immigration, does not clearly state whether the U.S. accepts dual citizenship. It is not among the recognized immigration statuses.
Dual Citizenship Under U.S. Law
When you take an oath of allegiance at your naturalization ceremony, you will need to renounce your allegiance to any foreign country or sovereign of which you have been a citizen or subject. At face value, this sounds as though accepting U.S. citizenship requires a foreign national to give up their citizenship in their home country, but the U.S. State Department disagrees. Its current policy provides that a foreign national does not need to choose between citizenship in the U.S. and citizenship in their home country. U.S. courts have followed this approach.
In other words, you will not be required to renounce your citizenship in your home country once you become a U.S. citizen, and you will not be prevented from becoming a citizen in another country once you become a U.S. citizen. (Similarly, you will not be required to give up your U.S. citizenship if you become a citizen in another country.) For example, you can vote and participate in the political process in your home country if you have this right through your citizenship there.
At the same time, dual citizenship does not mean that you are excused from obeying U.S. laws or otherwise upholding the commitment in the naturalization oath. You will need to take your U.S. passport with you when you leave the U.S., and you will need to show it to Customs and Border Protection officers when you return. You will not be given special treatment under U.S. laws if you retain citizenship in a foreign country. Your home country likely will not intercede for you if you are facing punishment for a crime in the U.S.
Dual Citizenship Under Foreign Laws
Certain other countries do not permit dual citizenship. A foreign national from this type of country will automatically lose their citizenship once they become a U.S. citizen. You can ask an embassy or consulate of your country to explain whether dual citizenship is possible. Sometimes you must meet specific requirements to retain citizenship in your home country when you become a U.S. citizen. You may need to submit forms or get permission from the government in your home country before you take the naturalization oath in the U.S.
If maintaining dual citizenship is very important to you, such that it would affect your decision on whether to become a U.S. citizen, you may want to consult an attorney in the U.S. and an attorney in your home country regarding the current state of the law. If you cannot be a dual citizen, you should weigh the benefits of retaining citizenship in your home country against the benefits that you would gain from U.S. citizenship. Read more here about those benefits.