The rules of dual citizenship

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BIEN has talked to the Danish-American law firm MartensenWright in Sacramento about the rules surrounding the opportunity of dual citizenship.

Attorney Ed Wright has outline the details below:

On December 18, 2014, the Danish parliament voted to pass a law which will allow Danes to become citizens of another country without having to give up their Danish citizenship.  The new law will also make it possible for people who have lost their Danish citizenship by becoming citizens of another country to reinstate their Danish citizenship during a five year period, from September 1, 2015 to August 31, 2020.

The new law will come into effect on September 1, 2015.  The reason for this delayed implementation is that Denmark, which is currently a party to the European Council’s Convention on the Reduction of Cases of Multiple Nationality and on Military Obligations in Cases of Multiple Nationality, needs to denounce Chapter I of that Convention, which provides that in case of voluntary naturalization nationals of Contracting Parties cannot retain their former nationality.  The denunciation requires a one-year notice and will take effect for Denmark on August 26, 2015. 

 If you want to take advantage of the new Danish law and become a dual citizen after September 1, 2015, this is what you need to know:

How to Apply for US Citizenship?

If you are a Danish citizen and live in the United States, you may be eligible to apply for US citizenship if you meet the following requirements:

  • You are at least 18 years old at the time of your application;
  • You have been a U.S. permanent resident – a green card holder – for at least five years (three years if your permanent residency is based on marriage to a U.S. citizen);
  • Demonstrate continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
  • Demonstrate that you have lived in the state or USCIS district where you will apply for U.S. Citizenship for at least three months;
  • You are a person of good moral character;
  • Successfully pass a U.S. civics test and an English test;
  • Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideas of the U.S. Constitution; and
  • Take an oath of allegiance to the United States. 

When considering whether or not to apply for a U.S. citizenship, you should consider the benefits and privileges, as well as the obligations that follow from acquiring U.S. citizenship.

If you become a U.S. citizen, you will enjoy the following privileges:

  • Bring family members to the United States: family members of U.S. citizens are given priority when legally immigrating to the United States.
  • Right to vote in elections for public officials.
  • Right to apply for federal employment requiring U.S. citizenship.
  • Right to run for elected office.
  • International protection: the United States protects its citizens abroad through its embassies and consulates.
  • Federal Student Aid: the federal government provides different types of financial assistance for students, including scholarships and grants that are open exclusively to U.S. citizens.
  • Estate planning benefits:
    • The unlimited marital deduction applies only if the surviving spouse is a U.S. citizen. Under that rule, assets that are left to a surviving spouse, who is a U.S. citizen, are not subject to federal estate tax, no matter how much their value is. This rule, however, does not apply to a surviving spouse who is not a U.S. citizen, even if he or she is a permanent resident. 
    • If your spouse is a U.S. citizen, any gift given to him or her during your life is free of federal gift tax. If your spouse is not a U.S. citizen, however, the special tax-free rule for spouses is limited to $147,000 a year (for 2015; the amount is indexed for inflation).

As a U.S. citizen you will also have certain responsibilities, such as:

  • Serve on a jury when called upon.
  • Pay federal, state and local taxes honestly and on time. 
  • Support and defend the Constitution.
  • Defend the country if the need should arise.
  • Participate in the democratic process.
  • Participate in your local community and stay informed on issues affecting your community.
  • Respect and obey federal, state and local laws.

How to Regain Danish Citizenship?

If you have acquired the citizenship of another country and as a result have lost your Danish citizenship, you may be able to reinstate your Danish citizenship. Under the new law, you will be required to submit a declaration to reinstate your Danish citizenship within the five year period from the time the law comes into effect, i.e. September 1, 2015 until August 31, 2020. The specific form of the declaration is not yet available and as of the date of this article it is not known whether the Consulates abroad will accept such declarations or whether they have to be submitted in person in Denmark.

If a parent files a declaration to reinstate Danish citizenship, his or her unmarried child under the age of 18 will be automatically included in the declaration, unless it is explicitly stated that the child is not included. The parent filing the declaration must have custody of the child to be able to include him or her in the declaration.  If the child is adopted, the adoption process must have been completed before the child turns 12 years old and must have also been ratified by the Danish authorities.

A person who has been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment between the time he or she lost his or her Danish citizenship and the present will not be eligible for reinstatement of Danish citizenship.      

Children Born Abroad

The new Danish law allowing dual citizenship will not affect the “22-Year Rule” applicable to children born abroad by one or two Danish parents. Under that rule, children who were born abroad but can demonstrate a close association with Denmark prior to their 22nd birthday, can apply to retain their citizenship.  The child must file the application between the age of 20 and 22 years (this is the preferable time period due to the 14-16 months processing time), otherwise the child will forfeit his or her citizenship upon turning 22 years old. 

The new law, however, allows Danes born abroad by one or two Danish parents and now over the age of 22 to apply for “Proof of Danish Citizenship.” Again, a key requirement is that the application must show that the child maintained close ties with Denmark and that he or she had permanent residency in Denmark for at least a year before the child turned 22 years old.   

For more information on the process of applying for a “Certificate of Danish Citizenship,” please contact the Danish Consulate or Embassy nearest you.  

Important Caveats

It is important to note that the current rules regarding dual citizenship in Denmark remain in effect until September 1, 2015.  This means that if you become a citizen of another country before that date, you will automatically lose your Danish citizenship.

Also, please note that the reinstatement period under the new law is only five years.  If you do not file a declaration to reinstate your Danish citizenship within this period, you will not be able to take advantage of the simplified procedure under the new law, but would instead have to go through the general naturalization process in Denmark, which requires proof of continuous residency in Denmark.

Martensen Wright PC has a singular focus: Serving Danes in the US.  For more information on how to obtain U.S. citizenship and how the experienced attorneys of Martensen Wright PC can help you with the process, go to


7 comments on “The rules of dual citizenship

  1. Sus Austill says:

    It broke my heart to denounce my danish citizenship when I became a US citizen…thank you so much for this information!

  2. Sickan Maja Bjerring Carnes-Perry says:

    I was born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark. I lost my danish passport when I became a United States citizen but would love to have a dual citizenship and get my Danish Passport back. Please give me more info about how to get started? I speak and write fluent Danish and English. Thank you

  3. Berit Harpstrite says:

    I became a US Citizen in 2004 due to the birth of my son. I wanted to get dual citizenship back then bit they was told I couldn’t. I really wnated to keep my danish passport because all my family is still living in Denmark and I am proud to have been born and raised there. Would I still be able to apply for danish citizenship even after all these years.

    Thank you,

    Berit Harpstrite (Nielsen)

  4. Sabine Ovesen says:

    What are the rules for children who has a mother who is born and raised In Denmark and an American military father who all together have been stationed to different part of the world and are now living in the States and still have strong family ties to Denmark, but do not get as many opportunities to come back home? They all are born in different parts of the world and they all have a Danish passport and are all babtized in mother’s hometown?

  5. S.S. Downey says:

    Born in Germany to a Danish mom & American military dad. Lived in DK as a child, am a US citizen now, and mother has passed away (she lived in & is buried in DK). I thought I had a Danish citizen # as a child but can’t find it. Any advice?

  6. Lisa Pasqua says:

    I was born in Aalborg, and immigrated young. I was raised by danish parents and was involved in Danish clubs and still have so much family in Danmark. I was so upset when I became a US citizen and had to give up my danish citizenship, it was like part of my heart was taken away. I did it for my husband who is an American citizen. I will feel whole again when I get my Dansk statsborgerskab tilbage. Thanks for the updates.

  7. Floyd Schwartz says:

    Unhappily, the article does not discuss the implications under U.S. law of reaquiring Danish citizenship after having renounced it as required by U.S. naturalization laws. My understanding has been that one could lose his or her U.S. citizenship under the theory that the renunciation was not sincere. My Danish-born wife is in exactly that predicament.

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