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Dual citizenship restrictions as a barrier for immigrant naturalization?

We know that access to citizenship has an important impact on immigrants’ opportunities in their country of residence. Thus, barriers to naturalisation like naturalisation requirements, dual citizenship policies or bureaucratic hurdles can impede immigrants’ ability to integrate and fully participate in their country of residence. In this context, the requirement of giving up the original citizenship for naturalisation has been described as one of the most important legal barriers to immigrant naturalisation. However, empirical findings regarding the impact of dual citizenship policies are ambiguous, and we still know surprisingly little about what drives migrants’ concerns about trading off their former citizenship for a new one. One reason could be that other explanations besides the legal restriction play a role, for example, subjectively perceived barriers regarding acceptance and belonging when changing citizenship.

Martin Weinmann (Germany’s Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)) uses data from the 2011 BAMF Naturalisation Study, a cross-sectional survey of the immigrant population in Germany to analyse the relationship between dual citizenship policies and naturalisation outcomes. Since Germany’s dual citizenship policies vary depending on the immigrants’ countries of origin, this makes it possible to study the impact of different dual citizenship regulations within a single country by using cluster-robust logistic regression models that also consider the existing country of origin differences in dual citizenship acceptance. Additionally, the paper examines the individual importance of giving up the original citizenship for long-term immigrants’ decision not to acquire their destination country's citizenship. The author does this by studying immigrants’ desire to retain their original citizenship as a reason against naturalisation.

The analyses show that requiring immigrants to give up their original citizenship for naturalisation tends to lead individuals not to apply for naturalisation in Germany. Under such conditions, subjectively-perceived barriers concerning acceptance and belonging regarding citizenship change are also relevant, particularly when considering the origin-related context. For example, if an immigrant’s family is resistant to naturalisation, they are less likely to decide to acquire the residence country's citizenship. This is in contrast to destination-related perceived barriers, which play a smaller role. This can be seen by the fact that their decision to acquire the residence country's citizenship is irrespective of whether they believe to be perceived as a foreigner. Regarding long-term immigrants’ desire to retain their original citizenship, the second part of the analyses shows accordingly that non-naturalized immigrants’ desire to retain their original citizenship appears to be a reason against naturalisation especially for those who perceive origin context-related barriers, but not for those who perceive destination context-related barriers.

The results also indicate that the impossibility of dual citizenship for most third-country nationals represents a barrier for their political integration, as those who have to give up citizenship are less likely to decide for naturalisation. This has significant implications for countries with exclusive naturalisation policies since naturalisation currently remains the only serious option for immigrants to acquire national voting rights in most countries.

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Martin Weinmann