Today I received two comments from readers about dual citizenship that I wanted to share. I've done a little research about this issue myself, so I will point out a few of the misconceptions that many people have about dual citizenship and then discuss the pros/cons a little.
First Reader's Comment
Not sure if you knew, but you do make some risk by obtaining citizenship and their passport. The main one is that while you are in Argentina, the U.S. can't do anything for you. If you are jailed, the U.S. consular officers do not have the right to see you, check up on you, and make sure that everything is going OK.
You also, I believe, forfeit the right of the U.S. government to sue on your behalf (I believe). For example if they decided to snatch up your business and house and give you nothing for it, the U.S. government can't intervene on your behalf.
It is doubtful like any of this stuff would happen to you, but we are, after all in Argentina -- home of a lot of corruption and many dictatorships. Just throwing it out there to say that there are tradeoffs for a worry free trip to Cuba.
Second Reader's Comment
You shouldn't be advising people on your blog to get citizenship from Argentina. If the US finds out about that, they'll lose their American citizenship. Not very patriotic of you, asking people to betray their country.
First off, I want to say that there's a lot to address here. I'm going to deal with the facts first and then I'll get into the issue of patriotism. I'm not sure if this reader first reader is correct about U.S. consular officers being denied access to a dual citizen. Maybe someone has a reference about that. This is one of those things that might be true or perhaps not. Who knows? I'd like to see a reference first.
Common Misconceptions About Dual Citizens
- The U.S. recognizes dual citizens. Although the U.S. did not recognize dual citizens at one time, this hasn't been the case for many years now.
- Acquiring a foreign citizenship does not mean you will lose your U.S. citizenship. The only way to lose your U.S. citizenship is to actually go before a foreign consular official and renounce it. No one can take it from you without your consent.
Common Misconceptions About U.S. Intervention Abroad
The reader mentioned that the U.S. wouldn't be able to "sue on your behalf" if a foreign government snatched up your business and house. Let me first say that unless you're a big campaign contributor to a number of different politicians, the U.S. isn't going to do anything if you fall victim to the actions of a foreign government. No one is going to make an international incident if one American has a dispute in a foreign country. Forget it. The U.S. government does not get involved in settling the disputes of its citizens abroad.
Additionally, the only services a consular official can provide when you are jailed are to refer you to a lawyer as well as communicate messages to and from your family. They won't intervene in your case, they won't provide you with any kind of legal services, and they certainly won't pay for your defense.
Two Schools of Thought
I suppose there are really two schools of thought on this issue. Some people are looking for their government to protect them. Other people, such as myself, are looking to protect themselves from their government. I'd much rather have a second citizenship and have the ability to protect myself from a government run amock than not have one and hope that my government might be more willing to protect me in some hypothetical situation.
Reasons For A Second Citizenship
Anyone who doesn't recognize the need for a second citizenship either doesn't desire to have more control over their life or just isn't thinking hard enough. The reader pointed out that Argentina is corrupt and has had military dictatorships in the past. That's all true. That's why it would be a good idea for people from Argentina to get a second citizenship of their own. One of my co-workers just got her Italian citizenship and her European Union passport. If she is ever affected by another economic crisis or if the country has another military dictatorship, she'll have the option of leaving for Europe.
The same is true with a second citizenship from a country other than the U.S. Looking back at the last half century or so, I can think of a lot of people who, if they had a second citizenship, might have had reason to make permanent use of it:
- Any young person drafted into military service
- Former active duty military who are being "backdoor drafted"
- The 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes and jailed in prison camps (the so-called "War Relocation Camps") during World War II
- Muslims who are being disappeared as "material witnesses" without trial
- Anyone falsely accused of a crime
- Any business person with an unreconcilable dispute with the government
These are all extreme cases, of course. We all hope that none of these situations would ever happen to us. However, that's why you buy insurance -- for protection against the possibility of something happening. In fact, if there ever comes a time when a person needs to use their second citizenship, it may be for something totally unanticipated.
If terrorists ever start detonating "dirty bombs" in U.S. cities, I can tell you that I wouldn't stick around for that. I wouldn't be able to live in a place and know that I could be hit with killer radiation at any moment. I can deal with the threat of plane or train bombings, but if they ever start with nuclear devices, that's when I check out of the USA for good.
The same goes with the whole Social Security and economic issue. If there's an economic crisis in the U.S., I want to have a place I can go to get away from all of that. I know it sounds funny to say that someone might go to Argentina to escape an economic crisis in the U.S., but I think there is a real possibility of a total economic meltdown in the U.S. sometime within my lifetime. There are serious structural problems with the U.S. economy that no one is addressing.
Other Reasons For A Second Citizenship
There are plenty of other reasons to have a second citizenship that aren't so dramatic:
- As I hinted at in the previous article, the U.S. places travel restrictions on its citizens. I believe, ideologically, that they don't have the moral right to do this.
- There are countries require U.S. citizens to have a visa to travel there that don't have the same restrictions to travelers from Argentina.
- There are banks, investment companies and mutual funds outside the U.S. that, due to the way they interpret U.S. law, won't do business with U.S. citizens, including expatriates not residing in the U.S.
Dual Citizenship & Patriotism
I hope this article cleared some things up about dual citizenship and why expats might want to consider it. As the second reader pointed out, there seems to me to be a stigma of being unpatriotic associated with acquiring a second citizenship, but I don't think that should be the case. All the reasons I listed for getting a second citizenship are to protect oneself from a government run amok. Of course there are the secondary convenience reasons as well. However, the key point here is that you can love your country without loving the government.
I think that's one key difference that separates people from the U.S. and Argentina. Most people I've talked to in Argentina love the country, but they hate the government and their politicians. No one here would call someone unpatriotic because they don't respect the government or the politicians. That's not the case in the U.S., however. Whenever someone starts getting critical of the government, Fox News and all the other talking-heads accuse them of being unpatriotic. I don't agree.
Having a second citizenship is really just a way of protecting yourself and giving yourself a lot more individual freedom. To me, individual freedom is what being American is all about. That's the ideal anyway. Although the constitution of the U.S. guarantees individual freedoms, it is not always adhered to, especially nowadays. Someone with a single citizenship always lets the government have the last word about what individual freedoms he or she really has. People with dual citizenship always have the last word -- they have the freedom to leave when they don't like what their government is up to.