Dual citizenship: What are the advantages and disadvantages of holding two passports?

As Jason Bourne knows only too well, a cache of passports is likely to smooth your passage around the globe, and that applies whether you're a former CIA operative on the lam or Joe and Josephine Traveller out to explore the world.

Despite the convenience that comes with citizenship of more than one country, there are probably a few Australian federal parliamentarians hastily renouncing any claims to foreign citizenship right now. Happily, that doesn't apply to the rest of us but even so, dual nationality comes with minuses as well as pluses.

A person generally becomes a citizen of the country where they're born, even when the parents are not citizens of that country. For that very reason, the six children born to my own peripatetic parents share four different nationalities. Another citizenship can also be acquired through marriage to a foreign national, permanent residency in another country, by paying a fee or investing a significant sum of money in another country or by the right of blood, also known as jus sanguinis. Under this principle, you may be eligible for citizenship of a parent's country of birth.

Although it may put a dampener on any political ambitions you might have in this country, the most obvious advantage that comes with dual nationality is the right to travel freely and live in another country. This may also include the right to travel freely in an expanded list of countries, which is particularly appealing to many Australians.

As a country of immigrants, Australians qualify for dual citizenship under the jus sanguinis principle in many cases, although the suggestion that citizenship of another country could be acquired as easily as one might catch a common cold and without the necessity of consent challenges credibility. Twice over the past two years I've bought a local SIM card in Italy and both times the process involved production of a passport, phone calls from the merchant to various authorities and filling out forms, which took over an hour in both cases. Could acquiring Italian citizenship be so much more casual than buying a SIM card?

Since Britain has traditionally been a major provider of immigrants to Australia, the most common dual citizenship available to Australians is British. If you were born before July 1, 2006, to a British father, you can register as a British citizen and if successful, apply for a British passport.

Do you really need one? A British passport is mainly going to be useful for travelling around Europe, since it gets around the strictures that the Schengen Area applies to Australian passport holders, namely the right to remain within the area for just 90 days within a six-month period. Despite Brexit, the right of British passport holders to enjoy unfettered travel within the Schengen Area is not likely to change. There are a few other benefits, such as visa-free entry to Chile – Australians pay a reciprocity fee of $US117 ($14$8) – but there are also some downsides as well. British passport holders pay more for an Indian tourist visa for example.

An Australian passport is a solid gold item. Australian passport holders are granted visa-free entry to 169 countries, which puts the Aussie item in ninth place on the list of the world's most accepted passports. Germany comes out tops, yet German passport holders have visa-free entry to just seven countries more than Australians.

See also: The most surprising countries Australians can visit without a visa


See also: The hardest countries for Australians to get into

While Australia and most other countries allow their citizens to hold dual nationality, some do not. The list includes a few that are predictable, such as China and India, but also some surprises such as Austria and Norway. Citizens of these countries face automatic loss of citizenship if another citizenship is acquired voluntarily.

Citizenship comes with obligations, and in some cases they're tough. For example the US government takes seriously the obligation of all its citizens to pay taxes. US citizens living overseas, earning an income and paying tax on that income to a foreign government are still subject to US income tax, and to the same tax filing requirements that apply to US citizens resident in the United States. However, US taxation law does provide for the reduction or elimination of double taxation. Even so, the complication and expense of US taxation requirements have caused some expats to renounce their US citizenship.

See also: 'Travel not authorised' - how I lost visa-free entry to the US

Countries with military service requirements might apply those to its dual nationals. Dual Israeli citizens have an obligation to serve in the Israel Defence Forces. Those with Swiss citizenship can be required to do the same.

Dual nationality can also make your life more complicated. A Victorian state MP on an overseas study tour was recently denied entry to the US, even though he had been issued with a visa. The ban was most likely due to his status as a dual national with Syrian citizenship. The Australian government has tapped the US administration for clarification, and authorities there are following up on the request according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. If that MP was Jason Bourne though, he would have set an aircraft on fire, shot a couple of security guards and used the ensuing chaos to get to the target zone.

See also: The world's best passport for 2017 named

See also: What happens if I lose my passport?

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