Immigrants living in California may look forward to gaining U.S. citizenship, especially after navigating the immigration system and green card status for many years. However, they may wonder whether they can retain citizenship from their country of birth when seeking naturalization. Dual citizenship is not formally recognized in the U.S., but there is no law prohibiting it and immigration authorities have shown no interest in forbidding it. When a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time with the rights and responsibilities of both, he or she is a dual citizen.

There can be major benefits to dual citizenship, including easier travel and residency requirements in different parts of the world. However, there can also be complicated aspects of life as a dual citizen, such as maintaining tax filings in multiple countries. There are a number of ways that people can become dual citizens of the U.S., including being born in the U.S. while entitled to another citizenship based on parental nationality, becoming naturalized as a U.S. citizen while retaining original citizenship or being born to parents with two different citizenships.

When Americans move to another country and obtain another citizenship, they do not relinquish their rights as a U.S. citizen or their obligations. There are only a few ways that people can give up their citizenship, including actively serving in a hostile army, committing treason, trying to overthrow the government or formally renouncing citizenship in front of an authorized U.S. government official. People whose home countries forbid dual citizenship may consider these concerns before seeking naturalization.

When people become dual citizens of both the United States and their country of origin, they may need additional advice on how to manage their responsibilities to both countries. An immigration attorney can provide guidance on naturalization and managing dual citizenship.