Monday, November 26, 2007

Seven passports between the four of us

My kids and I all have dual nationality, US and British. Contrary to what many Americans believe, it is perfectly legal to be American and have another nationality too. The Department of State explains on their website that "U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another." Legally, we must use our American passports to enter and leave the United States, and our British ones to enter and leave the UK. UntiI I renew it in a year or so, my British passport still has my maiden name on it so, because my plane tickets are always booked in my married name, I am always unsure as to whether I should show my US passport as I leave the UK or not. My last few flights have been connecting ones - via Iceland, the Netherlands, or Belgium, so I have compromised by showing the British passport at Heathrow and then pulling the US one out at the next airport. So far so good, no one has questioned it.

Having spent thousands of dollars getting a 'green card' (which was actually pink), I thought it would be nice if my kids did not have to jump through the same kind of legal hoops if ever they decide to study or work in Europe. Apparently many other people have been thinking the same way. This evening I heard a report on National Public Radio about Israelis who have been applying for European passports - Israelis whose families left Poland for example, now applying for Polish nationality. In many cases it is not with the intent of moving to that country. One young woman who was interviewed explained that she was applying for a foreign passport so that she would not have any visa problems should she decide to work or study in London for a couple of years. A passport from one European country opens the doors to many others nowadays, and in an increasingly global society it makes sense to me to hold all the passports one is entitled to!

I've heard of Irish-Americans applying for Irish passports too. Again, the intent is not necessarily to return to the 'homeland' but to open up European possibilities. Although I have no doubt that many Americans would disapprove, I don't see this as a bad thing. I think it is important to have connections and loyalties, but that it is not only possible but probably a good thing to have a feeling of belonging to two places. I think one of the advantages of the ease of modern travel is that we can see that other places while different are places to which we might want to belong, and that people from other places can be our friends and family.

Unfortunately, while dual nationals (UK-US) such as myself are tolerated on both a personal and official level, I think there is much suspicion of people who come from other cultures/language backgrounds such as the Iraq or Iran or even Mexico. I see amazing prejudice on a regular basis against people who have not been in the US for long enough to learn English well and wonder if people really would have made the same comments about me when I had only been here a few years. I know they would not. For all the comments folks make about my accent and about the fact that I am a 'foreigner' (despite the fact that I've lived in the US now longer than I lived in the UK) the truth is I am accepted far more quickly and better than someone who does not speak English as their first language. For all the gripes I may have about Being American, I am happy to be here - but I am always happy to be back home in the UK too. Having an American passport doesn't make me any less British - but the fact that I have not renounced my British citizenship does not dilute my commitment to my adopted homeland. Unless you've lived in two countries and loved both, I'm not sure that you'll understand.


Anonymous said...

I noticed recently that the cost of a UK passport is astronomical. My daughter needs a new one next year and if my husband is ever to leave the UK, he will need one too!

Crystal xx

Almost American said...

Thanks Crystal - I knew the prices for British passports had gone up, but I hadn't actually looked to find out how much. WOW!!! US$265 to renew my passport and $175 for each of the kids! That makes the US passports a bargain at $97 and $82 respectively! I'm sure they're keeping the cost of the US passports low right now as so many people who've never had them before are going to find they need them.

Anonymous said...

This not a 'possibly relevant' comment, this is a spot on, totally accurate comment!

Beat ya! Six people and 12 passports. I claim to be the other person on the planet who maybe understands. Yippee!

Anonymous said...

I have friends who have British, Australian and Hungarian passports. I'm not sure how legal it is to have three!

Almost American said...

Maddy, 6 passports to renew at $265 each? Ouch!

Sandy, I guess having 3 nationalities is as legal as having 2.

Mmm said...

According ot the British govt. I can not pass on my nationality ot my 3 children as I was not born in England or even the commonwealth like my mother was. It really annoys me that my PAkistani and Indian friends in the UK can apps on citizenship to their children even if not born the UK but I can't. I have my citizenship through 'descent' which isn't as good as being born in, say, Bombay or somewhere. Silly really. My English cousin had to make sure his wife was UK born or his children couldn't have citizenship even if born in the UK as he was born in Ethiopia and his mother in Burma and father in Peru both all very much English. As it was his wife was born in Essex so he is Ok now.

When my kids get older I can apparently apply for residency rights for them due to my British passport so that would be good but I think they will choose to live here which would be a lot easier actually as I never see my family and my mother can't fly here due to her health issues.

Jocelyn Nelson said...

I agree, get all the passports you are entitled to because you never know what the future holds. Or when new laws might be passed making you ineligible. We have 7 passports between the 4 of us. The worst bit has been the cost and travelling down to the US embassy in London from York with a baby and toddler. Although I must say passports have still been a walk in the park compared to the thousands of ££ we have spent for my UK citizenship. In a couple of years when we move to the States we can do it all over again for my husband!

Almost American said...

I'm very glad the British Embassy in Washington DC let us sign the kids up as British citizens via mail! It would have been a real pain to have to go there!

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