There is a pervasive idea shared by many in the US that obtaining second citizenship is unpatriotic. Indeed it’s a view perpetuated by numerous media outlets. It can prove to be a real stumbling block for some of my clients. Even when a second citizenship makes solid (and advisable) personal and business sense the idea that progressing on the route feels ‘dodgy’ puts many off! All of this means its one of the most psychologically complex issues surrounding second citizenship.
The US celebrates, and invests in its patriotism more than many other countries in the Western world. Indeed, pledging allegiance to the flag is still the cornerstone of many young school children’s day. They have a national holiday dedicated to the nation’s declaration of independence. For many Americans the idea of patriotism is combined with the beliefs in liberty and equality. In a country built by immigrants from every corner of the globe, American citizenship was the shared belief that united them.
Is the view that ‘second citizenship is unpatriotic’ still pertinent today?
However, the times they are a-changing.
Trump famously declared that ‘The future belongs to Patriots’, but the facts don’t appear to tally with this. A Gallup poll released in 2020 found that the share of participants who felt “extremely proud” to be American was the lowest in the poll’s history—just 42%, down from 70% in 2003. Indeed, the younger you are – the less likely you are to say that patriotism is a “very important” value. This may be due to the current divisive political landscape, or just a response to an increasingly globalised outlook.
‘Second citizenship is unpatriotic’ – The advice I give my clients.
Where my clients are concerned I encourage them to look at the facts rather than invest in nostalgia. What are the practical implications of acquiring second citizenship.
Firstly, legally the US government does not care if you acquire another citizenship whether through lineage, naturalisation or investment. The government considers it a private matter.
Secondly, only when an individual decides to renounce their US citizenship does the foreign citizenship becomes relevant….and even then only in two situations:
- when entering the US; and
- when opening and maintaining accounts at US and foreign financial institutions.
This good news gets better. Those who renounce their US citizenship and seek entry into the US in the future do not automatically need to seek a visa. Whether or not the individual needs a US visa will depend completely upon the passport that they are carrying:
- Canadian and Bermuda passport holders do not require a US visa to visit the US;
- Citizens of countries on the US Visa Waiver List do not require US visitor visas, so long as they travel in the required fashion; and
- The US requires all other countries nationals to first secure a US visa.
In the over thirty years since my first US client expatriation, none of the hundreds of former US citizens I have assisted, in their thousands of entries into the US, have informed me of any problems entering the US or getting a visa if required.
With regards to the financial accounts, as a result of FATCA foreign financial institutions need to report, withhold and remit on the accounts of US taxpayers. However, after a US expatriate receives their Certificate of Loss of US Nationality, the financial institution no longer needs to take these steps.
Of course, when opening a new account the financial institution will undertake their normal “Know Your Client” procedures. In doing KYC and looking at issues such as “source of funds” the institution will undoubtedly examine the period of time prior to the expatriation. But the post-expatriation citizenship of the potential or existing account holder is actually irrelevant so long as the KYC and source of funds hurdles are cleared. So clearly not being an American actually makes life significantly easier for the US expatriate’s financial institution.
Making the choice to invest in second citizenship and perhaps renounce your US citizenship is a deeply personal, nuanced decision. However, when it comes to others judgement of that decision I proffer this challenge… Do you care more your neighbour’s opinions of you today, or the financial and lifestyle realities of your family in generations to come.
If you would like to discuss obtaining a second citizenship in a free, no-obligation call then get in touch!