I am Austrian born, but I have had dual Australian and Austrian citizenship since 1995. However, I would never have accepted an Australian passport had I not been allowed to also remain an Austrian citizen, a privilege for which Austrian nationals must apply beforehand.
World ID – no place is home anymore
Worldwide ID (two of several millions of stolen passports)
Back in those days it was not all that easy to become a dual national. I had to show merits (“achievements for the republic of the past, and expected of me in the future”) to the Austrian Government. Today I am well aware of a number of countries, as well as Austria now that it is part of the EU, becoming more relaxed in this matter.
Some countries, however, are very particular about their citizens and do not allow dual nationalities per se. That is when one really has to make an informed decision, as to which identity to call one’s own.
Citizenship in my opinion is not a simple matter for “legal purposes” only. Permanent residency is (almost) the same (except in regards to voting, jury duties, and standing for a political office).
It’s a matter of the heart, as romantics would say. One has always roots in the country of origin, so a new passport is much more than a legal document; it also provides an anchor in the newly chosen home.
I keep hearing interesting comments. Yes, dual citizenship is an ongoing theme for most of us “expats”. We live in an ever-changing political world, so the question of which citizenship to have is always worth revisiting, as we constantly see new international laws and bilateral agreements.
It is also important not to generalise, but to look at each individual case’s merits. It may well be that one law applies to people born after or before a certain date; or that the situation with mixed parents or single parent’s nationalities has been modernised, because today a single mother has equal rights to pass down her nationality to her children, just as the father in the old days.
But remember to always check with your “old” country before you lodge a citizenship application with the “new” country to avoid inconvenience or even loss of your first citizenship. This left many people in no-man’s-land.
As far as Austria is concerned, descendants of Austrian parents will always remain “Herzensösterreicher” (Austrian by heart) but there are now a bilateral agreements in place e.g. between Italy and Austria, that might well change one’s eligibility. However, I realise that the national identity is not such a big legal issue anymore within the European Union. One European passport is as good as another one.
“You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”
Let’s look at this in another light. National identity is not only about limiting oneself to one’s geographic location within political boundaries. It’s not only about cultural heritage and one’s rights and obligations within one’s physical neighbourhood. It’s also about the wider responsibilities of a society for its members, for their health care, age care, social security, and so forth.
In other words, to “belong” to a nation can become a rather expensive responsibility for that particular group of taxpayers. So, unless the world has a global government (dream on, John Lennon, and rest in peace) this is not going to happen.
Yes, we are striving to live in a “one world” community, to globalise the world in the best sense of the term. But we need to understand the desire of most countries for single citizenship, thus making it still the exception to allow more than the one nationality.
As I said earlier, there is the financial aspect. The responsibilities of a government for their citizens can also be quite costly, and range from flying someone out of a disaster area or war zone to bringing someone back “home” and letting them fall in their social net, in case they get into serious trouble abroad. Or legal representation in foreign countries, consular services, the list goes on.
Then there are your citizen’s duties in case of a military conflict. One is supposed to “serve one’s country” if they draft you, when army service is not voluntary or civil service is not a free choice. You’d get into a serious conflict of interest, if your own two nationalities started a war against each other.
So, John Lennon’s dream of a world government in a peaceful one-people one-nation one-world scenario may appear ideal. However, that’s near impossible in our lifetime. As long as we have different countries, political systems, religions – and more separating interests in social entities, communities or tribes than unifying aspects of cultures – citizenship will remain a very tricky and complex issue.
Anyway, I believe this discussion about where in the world one has their identity is not about single nationality versus dual (or multiple) citizenships. Readers might have noticed that I advocate the “single passport” as the norm. However, there will always be exceptions to the rule, and every modern day nomad or world citizen will find themselves asking, at some point in their lives, which nationality they should keep, or which they should apply for, and for what reasons. That’s what this is all about.
By the way, there is nothing wrong with having a dream. Mahatma Gandhi had one, and so did Martin Luther King. Gandhi regrettably never received the Nobel Peace Prize, but King did. Great dreamers indeed.
I’ve heard stories of people who had thought they had dual citizenships, but then had to find out the hard way that they didn’t when they tried to renew their original passport. The new country had informed the old country of the acquired citizenship and the old citizenship was subsequently lost.
Finally, one other issue with two passports: Yes, each of them can be used in whatever country welcomes one of your national identities more than the other one, with the exception of the two issuing countries. I can only enter or leave Australia with my Australian passport. When in Austria, I always have to be Austrian.
Published in print in:
“V” #26 – Identitäten
(Vorarlberger Zeitschrift für Literatur,