Friday, January 16, 2009

Does the US allow dual citizenship?

Many people wonder whether the US allows dual citizenship. Specifically, people often ask if they can retain their original, non-US, citizenship and still become US citizens. The short answer is "yes", if the other country allows dual citizenship. For instance, I have dual US and Irish citizenship, since I was born and raised in Ireland and am a naturalized US citizen. Based on the US State Department regulation on dual citizenship, the US Supreme Court stated that dual citizenship is a "status long recognized in the law” and that
a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both. The mere fact he asserts the rights of one citizenship does not without more mean that he renounces the other.
Kawakita v. U.S., 343 U.S. 717 (1952).

The US does not encourage or favor dual citizenship. As the State Department states on their website:
The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. citizens may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S. Government efforts to assist citizen s abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person's allegiance.
Nevertheless, under US law, it is perfectly legal to hold US and another citizenship.

For information on which countries allow dual citizenship, please check local country laws. Some information is in
this document, however the document is from 2001 so should not be exclusively relied upon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Visa Bulletin for February 2009 released

The US Department of State has released the new Visa Bulletin for February 2009. In family-based categories, there is very slight movement forward, but just by a few weeks in most categories. Employment-based categories advance by 5-6 months for India and China EB-2, by 4-5 months for China and Mexico EB-3, and unfortunately the dates retrogress for EB-3 Other Workers from China, India and Mexico.

(Credit for this photo and the last one go to my brother-in-law, Paddy, from the family's recent visit to New York)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Separating Fact From Fiction About Immigrants and Crime

An article in the website debunks the myth that immigrants are more likely than others to commit crimes. The article states that:
Numerous national and state-level studies over the past hundred years have found immigrants are less likely than the native-born to commit crimes or be in prison, and high rates of immigration are not associated with higher crime rates.
The article quotes from recent articles in The Washington Post, and in the New York Times. They describe the NYT article thus:
In a different vein, the New York Times today ran a story on the rising number of federal prosecutions for immigration offenses [as opposed to actual violent crimes], which the Department of Justice ostensibly has pursued with increased vigor as part of the government’s broader counterterrorism strategy. But, the story notes, while immigration prosecutions have skyrocketed over the past five years, “white-collar prosecutions have fallen by 18 percent, weapons prosecutions have dropped by 19 percent, organized crime prosecutions are down by 20 percent and public corruption prosecutions have dropped by 14 percent.” One might question the wisdom of devoting more and more resources to the prosecution of undocumented immigrants for “illegal entry” at the expense of, say, arms traffickers who actually do have an adverse impact on public safety.
As regards the last sentence - my thoughts exactly on reading that NYT article.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Another US citizen with repeated problems returning to the US

Last Friday I blogged about a travel writer's experience in requesting his travel files from the USA government. I also referred to the problems that many people encounter when returning to the US, because they are incorrectly listed on the US government's "watch lists", or they have names similar to those on the lists. Coincidentally, there was another article on this issue in yesterday's Dallas Morning News, reprinted from The Washington Post. Juan Fernando Gomez is a director in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region for Chemonics, a Washington-based international development consulting firm. He describes his feelings thus:

I call it the little room. In most cases it's actually not that small, but my claustrophobia seems to kick in as soon as the immigration officer separates me from the other passengers on my flight and escorts me through a door into my own private travel hell.....

.......The real terror begins when my toes touch the yellow line, where I wait to be called forward. Approaching the immigration officer before being summoned could make me appear too eager (and often earns me a stern reprimand). On the other hand, any hesitation could be interpreted as a sign that I'm afraid of facing the law. So I walk up to the officer and nonchalantly hand over my bright blue passport. Seconds feel like hours as he starts hitting the "page down" key on his computer, scanning screen after screen, periodically glancing at me and my passport. This is when I break out in a cold sweat, which makes the officer even more dubious. When he reaches for a yellow highlighter and marks my customs slip, I know I'm headed to the little room.

Mr. Gomez describes the delays and security checks that he must endure every time he enters the US. He understand why, to a degree:

My name is common in Latin America, the Spanish equivalent of John Smith. It also seems to be particularly popular among law-breakers. I once sneaked a peek at an immigration officer's computer and saw an entire screen full of my doppelgangers. Who knows how many of them were bad guys and how many were law-abiding saps like me?

It doesn't help that my travel habits are similar to those of people who actually belong on a watch list. I grew up in MedellĂ­n, Colombia, during the height of the Pablo Escobar drug wars and have worked for the better part of the past decade in some of the most dangerous places in the world. In countries such as Afghanistan and Colombia, I help farmers find legal, profitable and sustainable alternatives to growing coca and poppies, the raw material for cocaine and heroin. So I guess it's understandable that my passport -- packed with added pages and stamps marking my entry into and exit from countries such as Cambodia, Bolivia and Haiti -- raises eyebrows.

I realize that DHS needs to screen passengers, but does it really need to detain US citizens repeatedly?

For the full text of the article, click on the headline above.