Double Booked

The number of countries allowing dual citizenship is on the rise.

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

For some of the nearly 200 million people living outside their birth countries, passport lines might be getting easier to manage. That's because the number of countries allowing dual citizenship is on the rise, jumping 75 percent over the past 10 years. Today, the number of nations allowing their citizens to hold two passports stands at 56, including Australia, India, the Philippines, and Russia. And that means the number of people pledging allegiance to more than one country is at an all-time high as well. The phenomenon has grown so rapidly that researchers are only now beginning to examine its consequences. "We know a lot about the legal stuff, but the stats don't exist," explains Rainer Bauböck, editor of the journal Migration and Citizenship.

For some of the nearly 200 million people living outside their birth countries, passport lines might be getting easier to manage. That’s because the number of countries allowing dual citizenship is on the rise, jumping 75 percent over the past 10 years. Today, the number of nations allowing their citizens to hold two passports stands at 56, including Australia, India, the Philippines, and Russia. And that means the number of people pledging allegiance to more than one country is at an all-time high as well. The phenomenon has grown so rapidly that researchers are only now beginning to examine its consequences. "We know a lot about the legal stuff, but the stats don’t exist," explains Rainer Bauböck, editor of the journal Migration and Citizenship.

Countries most often loosen their restrictions on dual citizenship to reestablish political and economic ties among those who have emigrated, according to Tanja Brondsted Sejersen, author of a recent study in International Migration Review. Italy’s 1992 dual-citizenship law, for example, allows anyone with Italian grandparents to apply for an Italian passport — an attempt to forge business and cultural ties with the millions of ethnic Italians living abroad. "There are tangible financial benefits [to having Italian citizenship] for U.S.-Italian dual citizens," says James De Santis, executive director of the National Italian American Foundation. "They can own property, attend school, or open a bank account [in Italy]." In 2006, more than 35,000 people became Italian citizens without losing their old passports, about three times the 2003 figure. Countries that depend on remittances, such as El Salvador, Sierra Leone, and Uganda, are also increasingly adopting dual citizenship as a way to keep bonds with expats strong — and the money flowing home.

Other countries, such as Sweden, are changing their passport rules to integrate a growing number of immigrants. When Sweden legalized dual citizenship in 2001, the number of people acquiring Swedish passports increased more than 40 percent during the next five years. This kind of integration has obvious economic benefits for new migrants, such as eligibility for jobs. Francesca Mazzolari of the University of California, Irvine, found that immigrants from Latin America who obtained U.S. citizenship but also retained their passports from home earn 2.5 percent more in the U.S. job market than non-naturalized foreigners. Doubling your passports may also mean increasing your chance of success.

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

More from Foreign Policy

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping give a toast during a reception following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping give a toast during a reception following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21.

Can Russia Get Used to Being China’s Little Brother?

The power dynamic between Beijing and Moscow has switched dramatically.

Xi and Putin shake hands while carrying red folders.
Xi and Putin shake hands while carrying red folders.

Xi and Putin Have the Most Consequential Undeclared Alliance in the World

It’s become more important than Washington’s official alliances today.

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

It’s a New Great Game. Again.

Across Central Asia, Russia’s brand is tainted by Ukraine, China’s got challenges, and Washington senses another opening.

Kurdish military officers take part in a graduation ceremony in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, on Jan. 15.
Kurdish military officers take part in a graduation ceremony in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, on Jan. 15.

Iraqi Kurdistan’s House of Cards Is Collapsing

The region once seemed a bright spot in the disorder unleashed by U.S. regime change. Today, things look bleak.