Dual Nationality in China and Beyond

Next week, I will be a panelist at a Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) event discussing dual nationality. I’ll be sharing the platform with Dr. Dana Raigrodski and David Freeburg. Registration is free, and if you’re an attorney in Washington State, you can earn CLE credit for attending.

Interestingly, the event being scheduled on St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just by chance. Ireland has a unique approach to dual nationality, actively encouraging descendants of Irish citizens to embrace their Irish roots by obtaining citizenship. This practice isn’t limited to Ireland; Italy and Poland and a number of other countries act similarly.

Ireland’s model is in marked contrast to China’s. Despite the importance of Chinese ethnicity to the authorities in the People’s Republic of China, developing links through dual nationality is not part of China’s efforts to connect with the Chinese diaspora. In fact, China does not allow its emigrants to hold on to Chinese nationality if they naturalize elsewhere. Yet in practice this is often of little import, as China’s prohibitions do not bind other countries, which can go ahead and grant nationality to Chinese immigrants.

As a U.S. diplomat in China, I often encountered many of the issues that stem from U.S.- China dual citizenship. Many U.S. citizens would bypass visa requirements by using Chinese documents when entering China. But, this posed risks. If they found themselves in any legal predicament, China perceived them as their own, denying them U.S. consular protection.

Meanwhile, Chinese who are considering becoming U.S. citizens (or who already are) need to be mindful of the tax considerations. Given worldwide taxation by the United States of its citizens, they may want to think twice about dual nationality, especially if a return to China is in the cards for them.

If you have any interest in dual nationality, you will not want to miss this event. Once again, registration is free, and attorneys can get CLE credit. In the meantime, if you want a deeper dive into the issues surrounding China-US dual citizenship, I urge you to read The Double-Edged Sword of Dual China-United States Citizenship.

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