Arthur Frommer: Dual citizenship is possible for Americans

09/25/2011 12:00 AM

09/25/2011 6:35 AM

We live and learn. When a caller to my radio program recently requested information about how to obtain a "European passport" (she meant an Irish passport entitling the bearer to all the privileges of the European Union), I casually responded that this was impossible, it couldn't be; I was certain that an American could not enjoy dual citizenship.

I've since been inundated with calls telling me I am wrong, and information appearing on the Internet also seems to indicate I am wrong. Ask online about "Irish citizenship for Americans," and you will see the flat assertion that if one of your parents was born in Ireland, though you were born in the U.S., you are automatically an Irish citizen entitled to apply for an Irish passport.

What's more, if one of your grandparents was born in Ireland, you can apply for Irish citizenship (supplying proof of your grandparent's place of birth), and upon obtaining such citizenship will then be entitled to obtain an Irish passport (in addition to your American passport). Ireland isn't the only country to permit an American to enjoy dual citizenship and two different passports.

A reader has listed several others: "I know for a fact," he wrote, "that Britain is OK with multiple nationalities, as is Ireland. France allows it too, and I think Spain is also OK with it. (I know one guy who got a Spanish passport by being married to a Spaniard, he didn't even have to live in Spain.)

"Denmark," he goes on, "does not allow dual nationality, Germany does not allow it either, with a caveat that they may allow it if the country you come from allows dual nationality). Australia, New Zealand and Japan allow it, China (PRC) and India do not."

And why is possession of a second passport — especially a European passport — helpful? Well, mainly because as a citizen of the E.U., you will be entitled to work in any member nation of the E.U., without permission of anyone and without obtaining work papers.

And secondly, you will find it much easier crossing E.U. borders with an E.U. (Irish) passport than with a non-E.U. passport. Another reader has pointed out the advantage of possessing a non-American passport when you go to Argentina: "A friend who has both American and Irish passports," she relates, "avoided paying the Argentine reciprocity fee by using her Irish passport on arrival in Buenos Aires (Argentina imposes a retaliatory $130 fee on visiting Americans, the same fee that we require of Argentinians coming to the U.S.)

She also warns, however: "There are many companies that turn up online when you start researching, that offer to help you navigate the process for a hefty fee. Some look like borderline scams."

So there you have it. It's obvious that my own former belief that an American could not enjoy dual citizenship is badly outdated.

If you've been persuaded that a second citizenship and passport will be helpful to your travels, or for other reasons — go for it!

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