The pros and cons of dual citizenship
Immigration expert David Starr explains all you need to know before making your decision.
If you are one of the three million European nationals or a non-European that has lived and worked in the United Kingdom for several years you may have thought about obtaining a British Passport and applying for dual nationality.
Living in Britain has a certain charm; the diverse culture, rich history, intriguing Royals. Not to mention the advantages of a stable business economy, employment opportunities, a strong education system, generous public holidays and free healthcare. But before applying for dual Citizenship it is important to understand the implications.
What is Dual Citizenship?
This is where you have two or more nationalities, usually having acquired one through birth or descent and the other through choice. Some countries do not allow dual citizenship but it is allowed in the UK, which means you would not risk losing your first nationality.
If your first nationality does not recognise dual citizenship you may either be regarded as renouncing your first nationality when you acquire British Citizenship or the authorities in your home country will refuse to recognise your second nationality. You may even need to formally obtain permission for dual citizenship before acquiring British citizenship through naturalisation which is the case for South Africans, otherwise you will automatically lose your South African citizenship.
What are the advantages of Dual Citizenship?
The main advantage is the freedom of travel. The British passport is currently ranked third in the world (along with Finnish, French, Italian and Spanish) and gives visa-free or visa on arrival access to 175 countries and territories. As a permanent resident with the right of abode you may leave and re-enter the UK at any time.
The UK remains a member of the European Union for the time being. This allows British nationals to live, study and work in any of the 28 member states without restrictions and visa applications as well as offering protection by the European Convention on Human Rights. You are also vested with the right to engage in public life and affairs, meaning you can exercise political rights as a British Citizen; allowing you to vote in the UK national elections and any European Parliament.
What are the disadvantages of Dual Citizenship?
The UK charges higher tax rates in comparison to some other countries, however it is not severe and does not outweigh the benefits it provides.
It is worth noting that international law restrains the exercise of dual citizenship so the UK government cannot afford you protection once you are in your country of nationality. However this will differ, country to country. To ensure status and protection you can contact the mission office of your country of nationality while in the UK to understand your rights before you travel.
Mr A was born in Switzerland and his father is Italian. Mr A has a passport from each country and has dual citizenship because his Swiss and Italian Citizenship come by descent from his mother and father. Both of the citizenships existed when Mr A was born and because both countries recognize dual citizenship he does not have to choose.
Mrs B was born in the US to American parents. She married a British Citizen in France and moved to the UK where she has lived for ten years. Mrs B has US citizenship through birth, according the US law and may acquire British Citizenship through her residence in the UK and marriage to a British Citizen.
Applying for dual citizenship is a decision not to be taken lightly and you are recommended to check the law that applies to your home country before you apply and seek expert legal advice if you are unsure.