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What does it mean to be a dual citizen?

The Local · 10 Oct 2011, 11:09

Published: 10 Oct 2011 11:09 GMT+02:00

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Recently, I met up with a good friend of mine whom we shall call John.

John lives in Stockholm, has a Swedish girlfriend and works for a Swedish employer. But when you meet him he’s definitely American.

As usual, John was in a hurry when we met. So we decided to meet up for lunch at O’Reillys at T-Centralen in between his train from the south and the red line going north.

As we attacked our hamburgers and fries, we discussed topics often discussed in Sweden in the autumn: the holidays, getting back to work, and the kids’ heading back to school.

But somewhere in this seemingly innocent conversation John dropped a line that kept me pondering all week.

He told me about his troubles with the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket), which wanted to keep his US passport for three months after he applied for Swedish citizenship.

Since John is a big-time traveler this caused him some problems.

But the logistical issue was not why I kept thinking about this conversation. I could not help but wonder: what is the value of one’s passport?

Is it just a piece of paper, or do we need a historical and emotional connection to the country of which we are citizens?

Is it just a travel document or does it have a deeper meaning?

John’s main reason for applying for a Swedish passport is that he travels a lot within the EU and – being American – having a Swedish passport would make travelling much easier.

But can citizenship be boiled down to something so pragmatic, so mundane?

An important factor is that he does not need to give up his American citizenship in order to become Swedish.

I am sure that if that were the case, he would not do it.

Which raises the question: if the emotional connection with his American citizenship is so strong that he will not give it up, is it then fair to assume a second one just because it makes the waiting lines at customs shorter?

Shouldn’t one’s passport be about even more than a feeling?

Another issue is that we tend to equate citizenship with nationality and subsequently with loyalty.

In recent years in the Netherlands two state secretaries have come under fire for having double citizenship.

The right-wing PVV argued that a member of cabinet with two passports ‘therefore’ had two potentially conflicting loyalties.

In their view, this was not reconcilable with the exclusive loyalty a cabinet member should have towards his or her own government.

The first state secretary had Dutch and Turkish citizenship and the second one was Dutch-Swedish. Some people argued there was a difference between those two cases since Sweden is a member of the EU and Turkey isn’t.

In the end, neither case was perceived as a large enough problem to warrant more than a short-lived news item, and both state secretaries were allowed to remain in office.

But wait! Hold your horses!

According to the Lisbon Treaty I am a ‘citizen of the Union’.

Article 20 states that every person holding the nationality of an EU Member State shall be a citizen of the Union.

This ‘Union citizenship’ shall be additional to and not replace national citizenship.

Story continues below…

Oh wow! So I do have dual citizenship!

But do I feel it as well? As a long time fan of European integration and former employee in the Brussels bubble I know what the EU is all about.

I even feel some kind of allegiance to this project called Europe. But it is a project, not a country.

So would I give up my Dutch passport for a European one? How European am I really?

Rationally I am convinced that citizenship does not equal loyalty.

We can be ‘citizens’ from different nations at different levels at the same time.

Just as I am both a Dutch and a European citizen. But emotionally, I fear the big test: Tuesday, October 11th at Råsunda Stadium when Sweden squares off against my native Netherlands in a qualifying match for the Euro 2012 football tournament!

If Zlatan is the first to find the back of the net, how truly European will I still feel?

Ruben Brunsveld is the Director of the Stockholm Institute for Public Speaking (StIPS), which offers training in Intercultural Communication, Public Speaking & Negotiation Techniques

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Your comments about this article

13:05 October 10, 2011 by rtharper
I'm curious to know what "But when you meet him he's definitely American" is supposed to mean. I have never heard such phrasing except as a way to characterise someone using negative, xenophobic stereotypes about Americans...

Also, I think citizenship as we treat it today is a 100% practical and mundane matter. One's cultural or ethnic identities are often tied to their place of citizenship, but citizenship is about rights, responsibilities, and jurisdiction, and the two certainly do not have to coincided.

You say your friend would not give up his American citizenship. I wouldn't, either, and it's certainly not because I feel any sort of strong ties to any Americaness in my sense of identity; I haven't lived there for years, and I only go back for my family once per year at most. However, even when I (eventually) get dual citizenship, I plan to keep my American passport even with the insufferable tax regime. Why? Giving it up is expensive, a massive pain in the ass, and restricts your right to, for example, visit family you may have back in the country.
13:08 October 10, 2011 by 4254
>John lives in Stockholm, has a Swedish girlfriend and works for a Swedish employer. But

>when you meet him he's definitely American.

>He told me about his troubles with the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket), which

>wanted to keep his US passport for three months after he applied for Swedish citizenship.


>Since John is a big-time traveler this caused him some problems.

>John's main reason for applying for a Swedish passport is that he travels a lot within the

>EU and - being American - having a Swedish passport would make travelling much


this is a really strange "main reason" why John wants to become Swedish citizen i believe: if he is working for a swedish employer, it means than he possesses swedish residence and work permits. A person with swedish residence permit can travel within EU with no real limitations.

otherwise everything looks normal. Migrationsverket makes its job slowly as usually and sometimes quite in a stupid way.
13:36 October 10, 2011 by Åskar
>An important factor is that he does not need to give up his American citizenship >in order to become Swedish.

>I am sure that if that were the case, he would not do it.

If I remember correctly he is not even allowed to give up his American citizenship.
13:57 October 10, 2011 by Lavaux
I've got a Swedish and American passport, and I can report that it is definitely handy to have two. However, it's not always true that the EU passport lines at airports are shorter. Also, John will have to present his American passport when crossing a U.S. frontier.

Regarding the justification for having a Swedish passport, I pay taxes in Sweden, so why shouldn't I get the all of the services to which Swedish citizens are entitled both in Sweden and abroad? If I don't get the full menu of services, shouldn't I pay reduced tax rates?

Regarding socialization and customs, you can take the American out of America, but you can't take America out of the American. We are what we are, and we think that's a pretty good thing. Even so, we assimilate well and add some invaluable dynamism to an otherwise drab and conformist Swedish society. It's a win-win situation.
14:24 October 10, 2011 by Åskar
One thing that makes it practical to have a Swedish passport when living in Sweden is that you don't have to renew you permit of residency. An American colleague of mine found out the hard way that the word "permanent" didn't really mean permanent and that he had to renew it every six years. If the border police had had a bad day they could have thrown him out of the country and force him to apply for a new one, but in the end he didn't have to.
14:38 October 10, 2011 by spudel
Agree 100% with Lavaux! Until you've been through the system, you have NO idea what it's like!
15:32 October 10, 2011 by asifbit
@4254> If you have Swedish residence permit you can only travel to schengen countries not whole EU countries.

@Askar>Permanent means permanent but the vise sticker or the card have a time frame after that you have to reniew it like people doing for ID card and driving licence etc...
16:44 October 10, 2011 by Tysknaden
It means: Being illoyal and schizophrenic forever.
16:50 October 10, 2011 by Baned
Lavaux, well said!
16:50 October 10, 2011 by bosko
We should abolish passports. Claiming that people have a right to travel but only with a passport is equivalent to gagging someone and telling them they have free speech. If they can keep you out, they can keep you in...
17:49 October 10, 2011 by gh2008
what a weak argument!

john has a Swedish girlfriend, lives in Sweden and work in Sweden. the writer couldn't see all these as tangible reasons for john to get citizenship.

are you serious Ruben Brunsveld?

"offers training in Intercultural Communication, Public Speaking & Negotiation Techniques" man you need to get back and study these courses before teaching them!
17:56 October 10, 2011 by 4254

the only country he could not go for sure without applying for a visa which i can think of is UK.

the other contries are either members of Shengen zone or grant visa-free entrance for people with a residence permit issued by one of the Shengen states. So John probably wants to get swedish citizenship just to be able to travel to UK.

now he is complaining swedish authorities took his passport for 3 months to grant him citizenship. i wish him to be some other country's citizen and go to US embassy to get US visa in some country. he'd certainly enjoy it.
20:45 October 10, 2011 by calebian22

The UK is a member of the visa waiver pilot program. As an American, his passport is a valid tourist visa.
23:44 October 10, 2011 by Mark S.
"But when you meet him he's definitely American." -- As an American, I am not at all insulted by this. At my age, it is impossible that my origins will not show through. One tries to fit in when in another country, but we don't have magic powers.

"As usual, John was in a hurry when we met." - Yes, we often give that impression. :) It is not meant to be rude; it is just how we are. Some Americans try not to appear in such a hurry, even though it sometimes make us uncomfortable. It may interested readers to know that we also do that to each other: Americans from the northeast of the country appear hurried and impatient to Americans from the southeast. In the other direction, we find some southerners to be irritatingly slow. The key is to recognize that it is a cultural difference and not let it bother you.

To Åskar: Yes, he is allowed to give up his US citizenship. There are many ways to lose US citizenship (e.g. serving in a non-US army), but it is no longer the rule that you automatically lose US citizenship just by taking citizenship in another country. (Immigrants to the US are still required to renounce all other citizenships if they want to become a US citizen.)

Obviously, John must have some significant connection to Sweden if he is willing to swear loyalty to it. (You do have to do that to become a Swedish citizen, right?) Sure, he notices the practical considerations. But are you sure that is all it is, or is it just the sort of practical reason that an American would think to describe to his friend?
02:24 October 11, 2011 by 4254

if so, i can see no reason why swedish passport "would make travelling much easier" for John.
02:54 October 11, 2011 by Chickybee
The Swedish passport has lost so much of its credibility/validity.

It's a sad but true fact.
06:33 October 11, 2011 by Stuart Dickson
As a Scot, I can assure you that nationality and citizenship are not the same things. I am a member of a nation, Scotland, and I am a citizen of the UK/EU, neither of which are nations, but rather voluntary groupings of states.

As civic Scotland is largely autonomous and distinctive from civic England, you could even say that Scots have de facto Scots citizenship, even if it is not de jure, yet.

I largely became a Swedish citizen because I find the concept of Swedish citizenship to be attractive, whereas I find the concept of British citizenship to be unattractive. I expect to soon be swapping the Yookay passport for a Scottish one.

I have yet to travel with my new Swedish passport, but will employ it in a fortnight on a trip to Edinburgh. I wonder how I will feel when I go through the "UK Border" with my new identity? Wonderful I expect!
08:38 October 11, 2011 by Norum
someone wrote that John would not be able to give up his american citizenship. Thats a load of crap. If he wants to, he can give it up.

Second of all, if he is living in Sweden permanently, he better give up his american citiuzenship, because US taxes its nationals even if they are living abroad.

As for citizenship/ethinicity...two different things....a Somali or Iraqi with a swedish citizenship is still a Somali/Iraq. Only wikipedia would like you to think differently.
09:01 October 11, 2011 by SaxSymbol73
First of all, it is very difficult to renounce your American citizenship: they make it nearly impossible, due to the way the government in the US handles taxing.

Luckily, Sweden and the US have one of the best tax reciprocity agreements around; we get on-par credit for all taxes paid to Sweden up to $US 85,000/annum. It still drives me crazy that I can file my Swedish taxes via SMS yet spend $US 500 for an accountant to report to the IRS.

How to renounce your US citizenship:


Recent NYTimes--Op-Ed on US taxation abroad:

12:26 October 11, 2011 by gplusa
Horses for courses. Travelling into Heathrow from outside of Europe I found it much quicker going through the "non EU" check-in line. Travelling through Europe it's easier to wave an EU passport than have some airport desk clerk in Budapest trying to make sense out of my Swedish residency sticker. A little more feeling of security knowing that I'm less likely to be chucked out of the country if I have citizenship. An unlikely event, but it's nice to have the odds reduced. While not a practical reason, it helps a little with a sense of "belonging" in a new country.

While you do need to send your passport in with your application for citizenship, you can request to have it returned again until your application comes up for assessment. I was told that directly from Migrationsverket. Phone them up, tell them that you're planning to travel, and they send your passport back within 48 hours together with a letter asking you to kindly return the passport as soon as possible or when they write again asking for it. My application took 4 weeks to be approved, so you're not without your passport forever.
12:42 October 11, 2011 by wabasha
Sax Symbol73...

I've tried to read everything i can on this subject. if a person has no income in the states do you still file taxes? all I have is retirement funds, ira/401k.. do I still file and give my swedish income also? is their a form for this. perhaps I've trusted the wrong tax guy?
13:31 October 11, 2011 by eppie
Get other citizenship shouldn't be necessary but sadly many countries make it necessary.

The US with their weird tax rules, Morocco with the impossibility to denounce your citizienship etc. Russia and China with their visa.

I can imagine what an american living in europe must think about passport controls within europe. I have the same when flying to the US. For some reason you are treated as a criminal. What the hell do they think a normal western-european wants to do in their country??.....apparantly they think it is something that can be prevented by standing in cues for hours. Worse even for chinese students that want to go to a conference in the US.

People can get really sick, tired and angry when they behold the ways of immigration employees. Schengen has been great for europeans, but if you see that a country like England doesn't join this union you really want those countries to grow up and stop their childish games of bullying business people and tourists.
14:36 October 11, 2011 by Yanksalot
@ wabasha

yes, you still need to file both federal and state tax. Federal no matter what, state dependant upon what state you last claimed residency in (typically where your US drivers license is issued from). Each state has their own rules on if, when and why you will need to file. You do have to report your SE income on both, but due to the high tax rates in SE, owing money to the US govt. should be rare.

In addition to taxes you also need to report any account you hold that at any point in the year more than (i believe) 10k USD of value. I can not recall the name of the form, but due to the patriot act and terrorism the US govt feels it necessary to know where you are holding your money and how much it is.
14:47 October 11, 2011 by wabasha
thanks yanksalot

form TD F 90-22-1 is sent to the treasury dept.

I found this:


seems to spell it out pretty well.
15:50 October 11, 2011 by Abe L
Having any two passports is a must have for any business traveler. I've heard people bring up countless arguments against dual citizenships and all the rules that are in place against that.

However, please use your passport to make a trip to North Korea or Iran and then attempt to cross the US border. You won't attempt that a second time.

Instead you will want to use one passport ONLY for traveling to the United States and the other for traveling to other countries. As things are a lot better recorded these days then they where a few years ago, you can't do it with a second passport from the same citizenship and it works much better getting one from another country.

The same goes for trying to enter Israel after having been in Iran or Syria.
23:20 October 11, 2011 by salalah
With the New World Order we will not need passports anymore, just a chip under our skin... Everyone will be under the surveillance of F***-book where the World Government keeps an eye on everything we do: our food-habits, friends, political views, interests and our thoughts... and our current location is constantly traced by our cellphones.

Why do you think that the Govt wants to have information from G***le and F***book

The situation reminds me of the Cuban "local spies" who were present at every corner so that if anyone would say anything against the system, the "Spy" would know it and report it to Havana.
04:15 October 12, 2011 by GLO
I am a American of Swedish decent, I have many/many/many family in Sweden. We come to Sweden every Christmas and would love to spend 6 months a year in my hearts homeland. I would want a second Passport and feel I could love both country's, just like I love both my sons. I would love to have a dual citizenship for all the right reasons.
11:49 October 12, 2011 by Nomark

I look forward to the day when you guys will finally give yourself a vote (it can happen now, the SNP are in power ) and get out of the UK. Its not that I necessarily want the UK to break up but this is preferable to listening to Scots whinging about not feeling British.
12:32 October 12, 2011 by gplusa
CL, I don't think that Sweden sets a limit on the number of citizenships that you can hold. Their only requirement is that you don't break the citizenship laws of any of the other countries in which you hold citizenship. One of the few ways that your citizenship can be revoked is if it was obtained unlawfully. They use the term "dual" but, as with most other countries who use the same term when referring to citizenships, what they are actually meaning is "multiple", instead of the traditional definition of dual (two). That's my understanding.
12:34 October 12, 2011 by Grokh
I been a dual citizen for since i was 10 years old, its something only very mature people can cope with.

Once you are a dual citizenship you become neither from where you are from, nor from where you are living.

i have both portuguese and brazilian citizenship , one by jus sanguinis and other by jus solis, i consider myself brazilian but im nothing like most brazilians and im definately nothing like any portuguese.

By my experience you get caught in a limbo halfway between both and you are neither. Im still a very patriotic brazilian though, maybe result of being born in the 80s in rio on a post dictatorship era.

But despite being proud of it doesnt change the fact i havent been back in long and did not follow the changes that occured in rio for the past 20 years.

Most dual citizens ive known tended to revolt against one of the countries and thats something they have to deal with themselves and not go all extreme. It is a very hard life altering experience on a personal level.

Requires someone to see himself more as a citizen of earth than anything else.But then again too many humans give the race a bad name, just like many immigrants give bad name and live the stereotype ignorant people build.

its a hard road i but it definately makes you wiser.
14:16 October 12, 2011 by Nomark
You don't feel that you take yourself a little seriously ? There are more challenging things in life than being a citizen of two countries, for example deciding whether or not to cross the road when the little man is on red.
09:34 October 13, 2011 by jonathanlindell
As a British/EU-citizen, the main practical difference in becoming a Swedish citizen would be that I can vote in Swedish parliamentary elections (instead of just EU and local elections). Likewise by keeping my British citizenship (passport?) I can continue to vote in Westminster elections in the UK.

For democratic reasons I should really sign up for citizenship. So that I get a proper say in how the country where my family live is run, and how my taxes are spent in the country where I pay them.

But something less rational holds me back, don't know whether that is loyalty to the homeland, allegiance to the crown or what. I think I have some notion that by being 100% no-questions British I would be better helped by a British embassy in the event of crash landing in a remote tropical jungle - maybe somewhat of a naive belief!
14:55 October 13, 2011 by cogito

I understand your reasoning--rational or not--except for the last. How would the British embassy know that you held Swedish citizenship as well?
14:24 October 14, 2011 by mbss
Grokh and Glo seem to come a little closer to less cynical views on the matter of dual citizenship, but few readers seem to appreciate the actual privilege of carrying two passports--despite the odd pragmatic benefits. Before 2001 dual citizenship between Sweden and the USA was not possible for everyone in the same way it is today.

When I received my Swedish citizenship certificate in the mail some seven years after coming to Sweden (and never having planned to stay), it happened to be midsummer's eve. I was in the middle of the country and took a bus from my home into a neighboring town to be with friends for the evening. The fields were yellow with rapseed, there were boats on the canal, and as I starred out the window wondering if I felt anything different with this piece of paper (and a bouquet of cornflowers) in my hand, I realized that there were far too many people in this world with no place to call home, no passport or identity papers of any kind in their hands.

Loyalty does not have to be blind or for the purely sentimental. It can represent a pride in being associated with countries that, despite their flaws, mistakes and hypocracies, attempt to uphold principals that provide a quality of life that I do not take forgranted. That I can be both Swedish and American in this particular time in history is not such a bad thing at all.
15:09 October 14, 2011 by tadchem
Dual citizenship = dual taxation.
19:01 October 14, 2011 by JulieLou40
I like the idea of Swedish citizenship if only for the convenience of getting your passport from the police station, instead of a huge expensive deal in the U.K!
00:09 October 16, 2011 by nightwolf

Totally agree with you.

I believe people from certain ethnicities born in Sweden even having a Swedish passport are not considered Swedish in the eyes of society.
20:35 October 20, 2011 by Boeing_787
Mark S.

Can you site a source for this statement from post #14:

"(Immigrants to the US are still required to renounce all other citizenships if they want to become a US citizen.) "
10:28 October 23, 2011 by leontan
What does it mean to be a citizen, a Swedish citizen? According to this excellent and surprisingly critical essay, it means to be white.

White melancholia Mourning the loss of "Good old Sweden" http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2011-10-18-hubinette-en.html

Citizenship is in many ways a means of shoring up the asymmetrical distributions of wealth and resources across the world, which in the past few centuries has seen the 'migration' of capital from non-Western countries to Western ones. In the context of 'globalization, it is part and parcel of 'a set of concrete actions effectuated by Europeans to exploit and draw profit from the resources of the non-European world' (Immanuel Wallerstein).

As capital drifts away from Europe, it sparks resentment and protectionist measures, not to mention conflagrations of racism, and concomitant immigration policies that seek to stem the outflow of capital and protect existing global inequalities in capital distribution.

For these reasons, I think the notion of citizenship, nationalism, and restrictions on the movement of labour (i.e. people) should be abolished.
19:37 November 3, 2011 by Mark S.
Boeing_787: When I wrote that comment, I was relying on personal communication. My cousin's husband just received US citizenship about a year ago, and he described the process at a family event. The concept is fairly well know in the US, even though natural born US citizens do not take the oath.

A bit of googling found the exact oath on uscis.gov (an official US government web site). Search for "Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America" .
01:17 November 5, 2011 by Boeing_787
Hi Mark S.

Thanks for responding. So not to debate anymore your statement that I quoted, but only for discussion, since we know that dual citizenship is allowed, how does that fit in with the oath and in particularly the first sentence of the oath? I can only assume that renouncing and abjuring allegiance and fidelity does not mean you have to give up citizenship, right? The question only applies to countries which have dual citizenship relations with the u.s. of course.
03:00 November 11, 2011 by johnoleson
The beauty of dual citizenship is you enjoy all the benefits of each country but carry none of the responsibilities or obligations. Does life get any better? Loyalty and honor is so outdated.
13:14 November 11, 2011 by ramazama
... come on all you small minded pea heads , next clear night take a minute to look up , and think , ( you are a citizen of an unlimited universe ) , we are on this tiny , insignificant , dirty stinking planet ,,,, with all these dirty stinking little countries , making all these stupid , petty , insignificant , issues about my identity to some , dirty insignificant country ..... wake up smell the coffee ,,,, one world no borders , one lanuage , one currency , if the toilet smells like roses when you are finished a no 2 , yes , you stink like every one else ! then you can have your own special passport !!!
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