Citizenship & Nationality

US Citizenship & Residence Abroad

American citizens who take up residence abroad or who are contemplating doing so frequently ask whether it will have any effect on their citizenship. Living abroad in and of itself has no effect on US citizenship, and there is no requirement in US law stating that naturalized US citizens must return to the United States periodically to preserve his or her US citizenship. Contact the nearest US consulate or embassy if you have any questions about nationality.

Acquisition & Loss of Citizenship

US citizenship may be acquired by birth in the United States or by birth abroad to parents with American citizenship. However, there are certain residency or physical presence requirements that US citizens may need to fulfill prior to the child’s birth in order to transmit citizenship to their child born abroad.
A child born overseas in wedlock to one citizen parent and one alien parent will acquire US citizenship only if the citizen parent was physically present in the United States for five years prior to the child’s birth, at least two of which were after the age of 14. Living abroad in military service, as a US Government employee, or as an unmarried dependent in the household of someone so employed are all considered as being present in the United States.
A child born out of wedlock to a US citizen mother can acquire American citizenship if the mother was physically present in the United States for one continuous year prior to the child’s birth. A child born out of wedlock to a US citizen father must establish a legal relationship to the father before the age of 18 or be legitimated before reaching age 21, depending on the date of birth, if he/she is to acquire US citizenship through the father. present in the United States.
For more information about these legal requirements, consult the nearest US consulate or embassy. Citizenship may also be acquired subsequent to birth through the process of naturalization. For details, contact the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security at (800) 755-0777.

Loss of Citizenship

Loss of citizenship may occur exclusively as the result of a citizen voluntarily performing an act of expatriation as outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act with the intent to relinquish citizenship. The most frequently performed of such acts include the following:
  • Naturalization in a foreign state.
  • Taking an oath or making an affirmation of allegiance to a foreign state
  • Service in the armed forces of a foreign state.
  • Employment with a foreign government.
  • Taking a formal oath of renunciation of allegiance before a US consular or diplomatic officer.

If you have any questions about any aspect of loss of nationality, contact the nearest US consulate or embassy or: 

The Office of Overseas Citizens Services

Bureau of Consular Affairs, Room 4811

Department of State

Washington, DC 20520

Dual Nationality

A foreign country may claim you as a citizen if:
  • You were born there.
  • Your parent or parents are or were citizens of that country.
  • You are a naturalized US citizen but are still considered a citizen under that country’s laws.
If you fall into any of the categories above, consult the embassy of the country where you plan to reside or are currently residing. While recognizing the existence of dual nationality, the US Government does not encourage it as a matter of policy due to the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries upon dual-national US citizens often place them in situations where their obligations to one country conflict with American law. Dual nationality may also hamper the US Government’s ability to provide diplomatic and consular protection to individuals overseas. When an American citizen is in the other country of their dual nationality, that country has a predominant claim on the person. If you have any questions about dual nationality, contact the nearest US consulate or embassy or the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at the address above.