Duality: the basics of dual citizenship

I think that one of the things that makes me sort-of interesting (but not unique) is my dual citizenship. I recently read a blog post called “Lifestyle bloggers are useless,” which is the perfect example of why I become so lazy with writing. However, she has a wonderful call to action: “Talk to me about the important stuff. Speak from experience.” So here we go: how to dual!

But your parents wanted a better life for you!

Yes, my parents moved to the US with the hopes of having a happy family with lots of opportunity. As it turns out, that land of opportunity put me in thousands of dollars of debt before I even graduated college. Hooray. The best part is, I only had half the amount of student loans as compared to Huan! After working several jobs and going through a lot of stress on how to plan our finances, we were able to pay everything off, but not everyone is so lucky. There are a lot of things that I love about working in New York and I have a lot of wonderful friends and family all there, but there’s more to life than making money and drinking all the time.

It’s thanks to my parents that I have dual citizenship that allows me to travel. Toward the end of college, I had a lot of time to travel with a few road trips up and down the east coast, as well as into Kentucky. I consider myself to be a homebody, but I really do love wandering places and exploring.

Anyways, the bottom line is that I’m grateful for what my parents have done for me so I want to share a little bit on the process. Without further ado, here are a few things you need to know about becoming a dual citizen in the Philippines and USA!

What is dual citizenship?

The very dumbed down concept is that humans have a basic human right to citizenship to a country. The requirements may vary country by country, but the principles are relatively simple. For the US and Philippines, both nations grant birthright citizenship. This means that if you were born in the country or your parents have citizenship, you will be honored citizenship. This, of course, is a little trickier when it comes to parents who are immigrating from the Philippines to the US, but that’s mostly because it’s the common thing to seek. However, if you were born in the US, you are almost always guaranteed US citizenship regardless of the parent’s status.

What are the benefits?

No matter which citizenship you seek, the common benefits are always having the ability to reside in either country and to enter without immigration fee. US passports can get you into a lot of countries visa-free (172 to be exact), but sometimes people overlook the Philippine passport’s power. As an ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Member State, Filipinos have the ability to travel visa-free amongst its Members. This especially came in handy for me when Huan and I went on our trip to Vietnam. Apparently, it doesn’t matter that your last name is Nguyen — if you don’t have a visa, speaking Vietnamese just means that you can chat with the security guards while waiting in line with all the other Americans.

Having Philippine citizenship is also crucial when it comes to the ownership of land. I’ve heard stories of friends whose parents moved to the US only to return to their inherited land either neglected or overtaken by squatters. We have a little coconut farm and some chickens, and my dad has used some of his retirement renovating his ancestral home. As a dual citizen, we can be assured that if my dad wants his kids to inherit the land and keep it in the family name, he at least has the option.

How I received dual citizenship!

When I grew older and started to appreciate the value of traveling, the question came up: why wasn’t I registered as a Filipino? When I traveled with my parents, I always used my handy-dandy US passport. If my parents presented a Filipino passport, I could be honored a Balikbayan visa, which is up to one (1) year visa-free stay. Usually they just presented their US passport and we were given a tourist visa, which is just a few weeks.

However, my parents were not naturalized at the time of my birth, so I was born to Filipino citizens. See where this is going?

As a Filipino, your kids can piggyback your citizenship if they’re under the age of 18. However, I applied for my passport at the NY Philippine Consulate General when I was already 21 (they have a really good Q&A!). My dad filed an Affidavit of Explanation for delayed registration, which is basically a notarized letter that says, “I had no idea I could register my kid for dual citizenship.” This seems to be somewhat common, as it’s often overlooked when people are so caught up in the process of naturalization to US citizenship. The detailed required documents are:

  • Four (4) original copies of the application form signed by the parents or the child, if already of age (at least 18 years old) at the time of report;
  • One (1) original/certified true copy and four (4) photocopies of Birth Certificate issued by the US Vital Records Office;
  • One (1) original/certified true copy and four (4) photocopies of Report of Marriage of Parents, if married abroad, issued by the proper Philippine Consulate or Embassy or the National Statistics Office (NSO) or Certificate of Marriage, if married in the Philippines, issued by the NSO. Marriage Certificates from NSO may be obtained through its website at www.ecensus.com.ph;
  • One (1) original/certified true copy and four (4) photocopies of Proof of Philippine Citizenship of either parent at time of birth of the child such as his/her Philippine Passport issued at the time of child’s birth or original or certified copy of Certificate of Naturalization or US immigration status;
  • If application for report is filed more than one (1) year after birth of the child, an original and four (4) photocopies of the Notarized Affidavit of Explanation for delayed registration by the Applicant and the Notarized Affidavit of Two Disinterested Persons attesting to the identity and relationship of the Filipino child to the Filipino parent/s
  • Payment of non-refundable processing fee of US$25.00 (if applying by mail, only money order, certified or cashier’s check payable to the Philippine Consulate General New York; personal check is not accepted);
  • The Consular Officer may require additional proof or documents from applicant to determine the child’s citizenship, identity, or eligibility for registration of birth under Philippine laws.

The process is pretty easy if you qualify, so if you can, I recommend you go for it. Have you gone through this process? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how it went for you, or if you have other benefits that I missed on sharing!

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