Would you give up your citizenship?

Before relocating to Dubai, I’ve lived in Japan for a good 10 years plus a couple of months. Initially, I never thought of staying there for long but so much can happen in ten years – I graduated from a Japanese university, met my lifetime partner, landed my first job, had a baby, etc. I came to love the place and decided I take the next big step: living there permanently with minimum hassle, if possible.

You can apply for permanent residence in Japan if you have lived there for 10 years consecutively, or 5 years with a work permit. You can also qualify for permanent resident status if you’ve been married to a Japanese national for 3+ years.

Reference: Guidelines for Permanent Residency in Japan ; How to Get Permanent Residence in Japan

I had a student visa for 4.5 years, 3 years work permit and decided to apply for naturalization instead of permanent residence. Permanent resident status would require renewals every 1-3 years, it has perks close to being a Japanese citizen without becoming a Japanese citizen.

A “PR” holder will retain his/her original citizenship and passport. Naturalization means you obtain Japanese citizenship and passport.

The difference between permanent residence and naturalization can be summed up like this:

Permanent residency and other visas give you permission to be in Japan. Being a Japanese national gives you the right to be in Japan.

In Japan, dual citizenship is not allowed so I need to give up my original citizenship. But it wasn’t a difficult decision: it was the best for my family in terms of travel convenience, for example. Japan passport holders get entry to most countries without a obtaining a visa.

Our children would get instant citizenship because one of their parents is a native Japanese. Japan only honors Jus sanguinis – the right to a nationality or citizenship given because one has an ancestor (e.g. a parent) who has the nationality or citizenship of the state in question. Spouses of Japanese nationals can not adapt citizenship through marriage, contrary to what others assume. Spouses will only get PR but retain their original birth country passport.

That meant if all my family members have Japan passports and I don’t, we face the difficulty of applying for visas whenever we need to travel together (and we intend to do a lot of traveling in the near future). And I know how tough it is for a Philippine passport holder to apply for visas. I’ve been denied tourist visa to the US, twice before.

I readily signed the forms and submitted. The process for naturalization is tedious. I received my notice of approval (1.5 years after submitting my application) one spring day in 2004. I know I should feel lonely or something but I also know that naturalization only requires me to give up my previous (original) nationality. It does not ask me to give up my ethnicity or my culture or my heritage or my identity.

So I wonder, are any of my expat readers given up their citizenship for a new one? How did you feel about it?

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12 thoughts on “Would you give up your citizenship?

  1. I don’t think I would. Good or bad, I am an American. Now I did live abroad when Hubby worked in Germany, and I love it there. I always say, if I could not live here, I would live there. But no, I’m an American girl.

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    • I can understand what you are saying, MB. My travel writer friend whose article about giving up citizenship sparked this blog post is also very hesitant about giving up hers (she’s American too).

      However, I’ve read that the number of Americans giving up their citizenship has rocketed this year – partly, it’s thought, because of a new tax law that is frustrating many expats.

      Article from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24135021

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      • Americans aren’t “allowed” to give up their citizenship if their reason is to avoid taxes and on top of that you still have to file taxes for (I think) 5 or 10 years after you’ve given up citizenship.

        I would not think twice about giving it up. American tax laws are incredibly unfair towards expats. Imagine being forced to take citizenship (because you get it automatically in most cases) and never having lived in the US…you are still liable to pay taxes! Insane. You don’t benefit from the taxes (public education, use of public roads, etc). You simply pay in and never take out.

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  2. I would in a heartbeat (when given the opportunity)! I love my ethnicity and I love my country (equally hate it in many ways) and because there are more pros than cons on getting an upgrade in the citizenship, I really would. Seriously.

    I won’t rant about it here since I know the Philippines already gets a lot of bad rap as it is. Hehehe! We can privately message instead to rant. Harharhar!

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  3. Before fully reading the post, I had some prejudices, “How could anyone give up their citizenship?” After fully reading the post and it’s quite understandable. Thanks for sharing your experience and I learned more about things in Japan. As an American Citizen, many of giving up citizenship to avoid paying taxes but this isn’t something I could do.

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    • Hi, thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

      It is very difficult to have a Philippine passport – a passport that is always subject to prejudices and discrimination. Whatever Filipinos achieve, they will always be judged by the passport they carry.

      I was a scholar in Japan (and later on, working there) but the immigration official at the US embassy in Tokyo found me as ‘just another Filipino wanting to go to the land of milk and honey and live there illegally’. I just wanted to visit family!

      Also, when they saw that I came from Southern Philippines, that instantly caused an alarm: Muslim (I’m not) = terrorist. It was all in the immigration officer’s look!

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  4. This was an interesting topic to read about, especially when I’m commenting the day when I applied for a Schengen visa for a business trip. The number of documents I had to submit was staggering, and my colleague from the UK was sitting pretty as he obviously did not need to go through this process.

    I’ve always maintained personally that I never want to give my citizenship, but recently I have wondered that, if given the chance, would I change?

    Was told it was possible to have, not dual citizenship, but something close to it where I will have t give up ‘citizenship’ of India but still be able to travel into the country as an Indian. So while it’s not something I’m faced with yet, it’s an option I would consider should that ever arise.

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    • Hey, thanks for coming and leaving a comment (as promised) 🙂
      If the pros outweigh the cons, with your future family situation, business or work, then you choose the most convenient.

      You are still an Indian anywhere you go, no one can take that away from you. You just have different legal papers…at least that’s the way I see it in my situation.

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  5. My husband was born in Poland (and is still a citizen with a current passport), raised in Canada (and is still a citizen with a current passport, and lives in the US (permanent resident). After a great deal of discussion, I can’t imagine him becoming a US citizen. The benefits simply don’t out weigh the negatives in our case. He can travel almost anywhere with a minimum of hassle and could easily work in many different countries (US, Canada/Australia, European Union) without doing any additional paperwork. Unfortunately because of the residency requirement, our kids will most likely not get the same opportunities unless we decide to live for an extended period of time overseas. That’s still a possibility for simply that reason…

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  6. I would give up my citizenship, yes, but not because I don’t like being a Filipino. Okay, maybe I do but only because it is too difficult to go “country hopping”. I would really love to bring my family around the world but without having to subject ourselves into such grueling process.

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