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Dual citizenship’s appeal grows, here and abroad

Posted on August 23, 2011
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blank Viktoria Kirakosyan is hoping to become a citizen of both Armenia and the US.

Viktoria Kirakosyan came to the United States for a top-notch education and later decided to become a US citizen. But taking the oath came with a trade-off: She lost her Armenian citizenship.

But now Kirakosyan and thousands of other immigrants who had to sever official ties to their homelands to begin anew in the United States are seeking to hold onto two citizenships – with increasing success. Armenia in recent years joined the swelling ranks of nations that recognize dual citizenships, and now Kirakosyan hopes to reclaim hers.

“I just feel at home both here and there at the same time,’’ said Kirakosyan, 31, the former program manager of the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown. “I’ve been living in Boston for a long time, it feels like my own home; same thing when I go to Yerevan. I don’t feel like a foreigner.’’

Researchers and US officials say they are seeing a wave of people with dual citizenships, at a time when students are coming to US universities at record levels, more households have members from more than one country, and globalization has eroded old notions of allegiance to a single country.

Countries including Armenia, Ghana, the Philippines, and Kenya, meanwhile, have opted to allow dual citizenship in recent years as a means of trying to maintain some hold on citizens who elect to leave for better educations or more prosperous lives abroad.

More than half the nations in the world permit some form of dual citizenship, according to a 2008 study for the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank that studies world migration. This year Haiti took steps toward it as well.

Only a few decades ago in the grips of the Cold War, having two passports was almost unthinkable. Governments feared it would lead to espionage or that it would prevent immigrants from assimilating into their new land.

The US government does not encourage dual citizenship but officially recognizes it, in part because it doesn’t want to conflict with nations that allow it, said Edward Betancourt, a supervisory attorney in the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

“We don’t put an asterisk next to their name if they have a dual nationality,’’ he said. “If a person is a United States citizen, that’s the end of the discussion for us.’’

No statistics for dual citizenship are available, but thousands of people are estimated to have more than one passport. Their rights and responsibilities vary: Some nations permit citizens abroad to vote, while others may require them to pay taxes or serve in the military. Typically to become a dual citizen, people must apply, file paperwork, and pay a fee, similar to the United States, which also requires an exam.

Maria Sacchetti

22 Aug 2011

http://articles.boston.com/2011-08-22/news/29915528_1_dual-citizenship-new-citizens-migration-policy-institute

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