Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Holding a second passport makes sense for some expats, but not every country makes holding dual citizenship easy.
Expats with dual citizenship are citizens of two countries at the same time, which is a legally complicated status that comes with a stack of advantages – and a few disadvantages.
Citizenship is a step up from an expat granted a residence permit.
Citizenship allows expats to live and work in two countries without permits or visas but can open the door to double taxation.
This guide looks at the differences between citizenship and residence for expats – and which countries offer the service.
Table of contents
What Is Citizenship By Investment?
Citizenship by investment is a popular method for expats to get two passports.
Seen by governments as a tool for luring wealthy entrepreneurs and their families to settle in a new country, the basic premise is an expat pays a fee – the investment – in return for citizenship.
Several governments offer citizenship to expat families and close dependents as well.
Many countries run citizenship by investment programs. The terms and costs can vary considerably, so it’s a good idea to take some time and professional advice to choose a scheme that is the right fit.
Changing citizenship from one country to another is a big step that should not be approached lightly.
Citizens have all the duties and obligations like everyone else in their new home.
Advantages may include the right to vote, access to education and healthcare and social security benefits that are beyond the favours granted to new residents.
What Is Residence By Investment?
Residence by investment allows a wealthy investor to live and work in a new country again in return for an investment.
Unlike citizenship, residence has a shelf-life of a few years, although permission is often renewable and can lead to citizenship after a qualifying time.
Similarly to citizenship by investment, several countries offer residence permits to expat families and their close dependants
Seeking residence in a new country does not change citizenship – a British expat moving to the USA retains UK citizenship but gains US residence.
How Does Tax Residence Impact Expats?
To complicate life as an expat, you can hold two passports simultaneously without becoming a tax resident.
Tax residency is not about where you are a citizen but where your main home or the place where you earn your income is.
Generally, if you stay in a country for six months, many tax authorities will consider that place your main home and move to charge tax.
However, expats can have two countries as their main homes where they split the year, spending six months in each. In this case, double taxation agreements come into play and you may pay tax you did not expect.
Double taxation agreements (DTAs) are rules that give one country precedence over another for tax purposes. The rules also ensure expats do not pay tax on the same money in different countries.
How Do Expats Become Dual Citizens?
Most people become dual citizens from birth, not by choice.
For instance, former British Prime MInister Boris Johnson found he had dual US/UK citizenship when he sold a home and faced a US tax claim. Johnson was born in the US, but his family moved to the UK while he was still a small child.
Johnson protested he was British and not an Accidental American as his dual citizenship had nothing to do with him and was a consequence of his parents moving home.
What Are The Advantages Of Two Passports?
Dual citizenship comes with several advantages:
- Expats gain the right to vote and to stand in elections
- Dual citizenship comes with no work restrictions and visa-free, unlimited travel to both countries
- Citizens can claim social security and other benefits
- Citizens can own a home or investment property
Of course, there’s no free lunch and dual citizens must enlist with the military if required. Some dual citizens can find holding two passports bars them from security-sensitive jobs with a government.
Countries Offering Dual Citizenship
Nearly half the countries in the world offer dual citizenship. The most popular include:
|Antigua & Barbuda||Argentina||Armenia||Australia|
|Burkina Faso||Burundi||Central African Republic||Chile|
|Comoros||Republic of Congo||Costa Rica||Cyprus|
|Ecuador||Egypt||El Salvador||Equatorial Guinea|
|Nigeria||Pakistan||Panama||Papua New Guinea|
|Romania||Russia||St Kitts-Nevis||St Lucia|
|St Vincent & The Grenadines||Samoa||Serbia||Seychelles|
|Sierra Leone||Slovenia||Somalia||South AFrica|
|South Korea||South Sudan||Spain||Sri Lanka|
|Trinidad & Tobago||Tunisia||Turkey||Uganda|
Don’t forget dual citizenship rules constantly change, so take professional tax and residency advice before committing to any moves.
Dual Citizenship FAQ
Dual residents have the right to live in two countries at the same time, but only hold a passport for one.
Dual citizens can live and work in two countries at the same time, while holding a passport for both.
The length of time an expat spends in a country can give that country a claim to charge taxes on income and gains. Generally, after six months an expat becomes a tax resident.
Many expats opt to hold two passports as each will grant visa-free travel across borders. The list of visa-free travel countries varies between nations.
The application process is different for each country. The first step is completing the relevant forms and submitting them to an embassy or consulate. Often, a processing fee is payable, too.
Below is a list of related articles you may find of interest.
- UK Government – Dual citizenship: https://www.gov.uk/dual-citizenship
- U.S. Department of State – Dual Nationality: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/travel-legal-considerations/Advice-about-Possible-Loss-of-US-Nationality-Dual-Nationality/Dual-Nationality.html
- Australian Department of Home Affairs – Dual citizenship: https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/citizenship/become-a-citizen/by-descent/dual-citizenship
- Canadian Government – Dual citizenship: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/canadian-citizenship/dual-citizenship.html
- New Zealand Government – Dual citizenship: https://www.govt.nz/browse/passports-citizenship-and-identity/dual-citizenship/