Legal Word of the Day
Dual Citizen
Entry: Dual Citizen
Pronunciation: doo – uhl – sit – uh – zuhn
Definition: a person who is recognized as a legal citizen of two or more countries
A person can become a citizen under the laws of two (or more) countries at the same time by obtaining dual citizenship. However, not all countries allow dual citizenship, and some place certain restrictions on dual citizens.

In general, countries define citizenship based on an individual’s place of birth, marriage, and/or naturalization. So, you may become a citizen of a country for any of the following reasons:
  • You were born in the country
  • One or both of your parents are citizens of that country
  • You married a citizen of that country
  • You (or one or both of your parents) obtained that country's citizenship through the legal process of naturalization
Individual countries set their own laws in establishing criteria for citizenship (and dual citizenship). For example, some countries grant citizenship automatically at birth, while some countries do not confer citizenship by birth. Also, countries generally now require more restrictions and a “waiting period” to obtain citizenship through marriage.

Dual citizens have to comply with all the guidelines of each country where they are citizens. In other words, countries usually create their citizenship laws with little or no regard for the citizenship laws of other countries. For example, the United States does not care if Brazil considers a person a Brazilian citizen, and Brazil does not care if the United States considers a person a U.S. citizen. So, countries generally determine citizenship independently of each other.

Further, dual citizenship can influence other regulations on an individual such as how that individual is taxed in both countries. Most countries base liability for income tax on an individual’s residence (e.g. where the individual lives) and/or source of income, not solely on citizenship (however, the United States does not specifically follow this model).

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