The Dual Citizenship Transformation of Expats to Global Citizens

Expat Dual Citizenship

The Dual Citizenship Transformation of Expats to Global Citizens

By Amalia Maloney Del Riego

Global Living – Issue 9 | Novovember/December 2013

I’ll be honest … I haven’t really had a true experience of living as an expatriate, or as it’s referred to in its more savvy term, an ‘expat’. In my passionate lust for traveling the world, I have only just begun. My start hasn’t been too shabby, however. Coming from a family that is ethnically diverse helps a great deal. My dad is Scottish-Irish from Pennsylvania, where I was born, and my mother is from the Dominican Republic, where we would visit throughout my childhood. I grew up in central Florida so, as you can see, my family is spread out and my travels began as a baby. Fast forward to today and, as a 31-year-old woman, my dream of living back and forth between my American home-base of Denver and the country of Spain is actually coming true … and pleasantly quicker than I ever expected.

I’m not alone in this lifestyle pursuit, and the concept of an international community of global citizens is being realized by more and more people, especially travel-lovers. One of the ways this is evolving today is through the variety of options for obtaining dual citizenship; this means that for many of us, our global living dreams are becoming reality.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself saying this and hearing it from others: “Our world is getting smaller and smaller.” While technology is aiding this in a futuristic fashion resembling Hollywood movies, it still has to do with governments and, most importantly, our passion to travel and experience the world. This attributes to the culture of the expats who re-establish their lives in a country not of their origin of birth or citizenship.

Are you an expat? Do you know any expats? Although I am not an expat by definition, I know many people who are, and my lifestyle is indeed similar. From what I have learned in my travels, one of the hardest things to deal with as an expat are the laws of how to remain for long periods of time in the country of your dreams. Because of this, many expats are looking for ways that dual citizenship can be gained. Since laws are always changing, I believe the possibilities are expansive.

From Personal Experience

My personal journey of obtaining dual citizenship is fairly unique to the different options available in many countries. It is quite the story of history and family generations past. My grandfather on my mother’s side was from Spain and, since he fought against the Franco regime in the Spanish Civil War, he was exiled to the Dominican Republic. In 2007, the Ley de la Memoria Historica (Law of Historical Memory) was established in Spain as a process that allowed for descendants of Spaniards killed and exiled by the Franco Regime to apply for Spanish citizenship. I applied as a descendant of a Spanish national and, while my application took about two years to process, for my younger brothers it took only about six to eight months. Now, I not only have a European Union Spanish passport and Spanish residency card, but even a Spanish birth certificate. Did I have to denounce my American nationality? I did not. The United States, along with a few other countries such as the U.K., Australia and Switzerland, has no restrictions for holding dual nationality.

Aside from the logistics of applying, my experience has encountered a lot of controversial sentiments from differing segments of the Spanish culture. Many political parties and people in Spain are against this law and opportunity. Even though the application deadline was December 2011 and submissions can no longer be made, it continues to evoke the larger issue of obtaining retroactive justice for unresolved war atrocities of the past. Naturally, there are those who believe the law goes too far, and those who believe it does not go far enough. I have been fortunate to not encounter any in-person hostility but, during my times living in Spain, many people have confirmed that anger about these issues is fuming just below the surface. Even today, it is one of several factors contributing to the country being politically and socially divided. While some locals may not be happy about my dual citizenship, I can understand and respect where they are coming from, while still enjoying and embracing their culture and country as one of my own. For me, it is a gift and an opportunity for my family and me to honor our legacy and loved ones.

Possibilities for You

Having dual nationality can sound really glamorous, so while you may be drawn to it for valid and downright fun reasons, make sure that you consider the not-so-fun aspects as well. There are many people who seek dual nationality because life circumstances such as marriage or work deem it so. Depending on the country, it can come with fees, tax issues, and family and lifestyle challenges. So it’s important to clarify for yourself why you want or need dual citizenship in the first place.

Countries such as St. Kitts, Austria and Portugal offer citizenship by investment programs, with stipulations varying from a minimum number of years in residency and real estate investment to financial capital options and fast processing of your passport. Spain’s ‘dual nationality through real estate investment’ is no longer available; such a program can only be obtained in other Latin countries. Be aware of the discrepancies that exist and vary from country to country. For example, it is said about many countries, including Spain, that you are required to denounce your U.S. or original nationality. Currently this is true but, in the case of the U.S., such action is not actually recognized or effective unless denounced in-person before the appropriate U.S. government representative. In light of overwhelming amounts of information online, I recommend referring to the government websites.

If your dreams or needs are taking you down the path of dual citizenship, the one word of advice I have for you is this: TIME. Be ready to put time into conducting research so that you are properly prepared for going through the application process for dual citizenship with the country of your choice. While dual citizenship is not the only way we can enjoy global living, I attest to the fact that it can certainly enhance the experience.

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