Topics on Dual Citizenship, By Sergio J. Castro

In the USA, of the Mexican law enforcement agencies “The Federales” is the police force that is best known by the general public, there are several federal police departments in the country of Mexico, but the Federal Highway Police is the one that is most often referred to as “The Federales”. To join the Federal Highway Police the applicant needs to meet several requirements, among them a High School diploma, be of a certain height, a certain age, good physical condition and a sole Mexican citizenship; this means that the candidate should not be claimed as a citizen of another country, this means that no dual citizenship holders will be considered for the position!

During the last years of the 20th century Mexico modified her constitution permitting her citizens to gain another nationality without losing their Mexican Citizen status. Dual citizenship is permitted by many countries, both developed and third world countries; the US does not encourage dual citizenship but it does recognize that it exists and that some of her citizens (naturalized or born) hold passports from other nations.

In most cases dual citizenship holders are super citizens who enjoy rights from two countries, like voting, and they are also second hand citizens who have limited access to government critical positions, like the Mexican Federal Police example above.

US government officials are suspicious of dual-citizen’s loyalty to the US, while US Nationals holding a second citizenship are recognized as US Citizens and US Citizens only while on US soil; for security clearance purposes, those US Citizens that use a foreign passport to enter a third country will not be granted government security clearance. They are not trusted enough for mission critical assignments. People with the right to a second citizenship who do not use it or claim it do not have this problem. For state or local government dual citizenship is not a big issue. An example of this is California’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who still holds his Austrian citizenship.

Then there are moral issues, hardliner opponents believe that people should only hold one citizenship because most people have loyalty to a single country, regardless of how many citizenships they hold; In the US these hardliners believe that one is either a US Citizen or not. But morality is not tangible and according to the majority of dual citizenship holders that I know, they can enjoy both citizenships with no internal conflicts. The reality is that a lot of people wouldn’t have applied for US citizenship had their native country not allowed dual citizenship, and that alone says where their alliance is. So it is not a simple matter. This is citizenship for convenience, and most people holding dual nationalities will admit that they did it because it was convenient, yet I don’t see anything wrong with it as most people here enjoy the US way of life, and the liberty and wealth. They treasure the opportunity and privilege of living here, but they still have nostalgia and identity with the life and culture they left behind.

I don’t see anything wrong with being an ex-pat either, ex-pats don’t have the same rights as citizens, nor the same obligations; they are welcomed foreigners. And as long as they abide by the laws they will remain welcomed foreigners, so dual citizenship will not be necessary to them unless they need a privilege available only to citizens.

So being a dual citizen of the US and Germany will not carry much implications as being a dual citizen of the US and Canada because there is an ocean between the two countries, the traveling back and forth will not be as often as it would be in the second case

Our region, San Diego County, borders Mexico, and since 1998 lots of Mexican nationals have applied and become US citizens. Many of them reside in Mexico and commute daily to work in the US, so in theory they’re United Statians by day and Mexicans by night. Dual nationality has always existed in Mexican towns that bordered the US, but it was clandestine, not legal. Before dual nationality was legal in Mexico many Mexican couples decided to have their children born on US soil so they could have a better future. The problem was that many registered them in Mexico as well (they obtained Mexican birth certificates just to be safe in case the US went to war) but later in life this sometimes presented problems for US born people who grew up in Mexico, especially if they became interested in local politics. Former Baja California governors Ernesto Ruffo and Eugenio Elourdoy had to give up their US citizenship and claim the Mexican one based on “jus sanguinis”, the right of blood so they could pursue their political ambitions, and for those who in their adult life returned to the US they had the problem that they were foreigners in their own land. Born in the US but raised in another country, while a minor problem that lots of people would love to have, it was and it is still is an identity issue.

Dual citizenship also has lots of grey areas or inconveniencies that can scale to uncomfortable situations, for example, in the US a dual citizenship holder that travels frequently has to be very careful while entering his passport information on frequent flyer programs because some of these programs are linked to immigration systems and if the wrong passport information is entered, the official at the counter will not necessary understand the dual citizenship concept, or worse, oppose it. One grey area that I spotted is in Mexico. In theory Mexicans with dual nationalities are treated as Mexicans once entering Mexico, they will have the same obligations and rights than average Mexicans do. But this is not necessary true if a US- Mexican dual citizenship holder crosses the border into Mexico driving his US-registered car. Mexican nationals cannot drive foreign registered cars. So while driving the car in Mexico this person is considered a US Citizen, if stopped by the police he would have to show his US documents that gives him the right to drive a US registered vehicle as a tourist in Mexico; once he exits the car, to vote for example, he is a Mexican national. Funny huh!?

Like I said above, dual citizenship is not a simple matter; there will always be trade-off for those holding two or more nationalities; there will always be gray areas to deal with and there will always be pros and cons, and opposition to it. So on a case by case basis, those eligible will have to weight in their own situation, their own values, their own needs and their own future, but one thing is for sure for those holding dual nationalities, at one point they will be super citizens and on another point they will be second hand citizens.


David Dodd Nov. 11, 2009 @ 1:43 a.m.


A couple of minor points here. The U.S. does not recognize dual citizenship. Not at all. Once one becomes a U.S. citizen, it is implicated (and in fact demanded) that one renounces their former citizenship. They do not recognize dual citizenship.

So far as ex-pat's rights in Mexico, expatriates have full civil and legal rights with the following exceptions: They may not be issued a voting card (therefore cannot vote), they may not interfere in government business (i.e. protest or be in any way involved in the internal affairs of Mexico), and they must hold a valid passport and visa outside of the limits of the Northern frontera (inside of the frontera zone, U.S. I.D. is okay.

And, honest, a Mexican National with dual citizenship (or even a valid green card) may drive a U.S. registered car, so long as it is registered in their name and they have a U.S. licence.

I'm not out to lance your blog entry, but I think you've been given some incorrect information. My son, a Mexican National and now U.S. citizen is otherwise breaking these laws and getting away with it ;)


David Dodd Nov. 11, 2009 @ 2:14 a.m.

Well, how about that! This is fairly new, Sergio, I can assure you that ten years ago the U.S. did not at all accept the notion of dual citizenship! Although, if you read between the lines, it's sort of a "don't ask, don't tell" sort of thing. It's an improvement, sin embargo.


Sergio Castro Dec. 23, 2009 @ 7:50 p.m.

Here's another VERY interesting link regarding Dual Israeli US citizenship... Dual citizens holding government positions in both countries.


Sergio Castro Dec. 28, 2010 @ 8:51 a.m.

Also, check the Dual Citizen recommendation by the state department, about 1/4 down the document:

Dual Nationality: Mexican law recognizes dual nationality for Mexicans by birth, meaning those born in Mexico or born abroad to Mexican parents. U.S. citizens who are also Mexican nationals are considered by local authorities to be Mexican. Dual nationality status could result in the delay of notification of arrests and other emergencies or hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide consular services. Dual nationals are subject to compulsory military service in Mexico; in addition, dual national males must register for the U.S. Selective Service upon turning 18. For more information, visit the U.S. Selective Service website. TRAVELERS POSSESSING BOTH U.S. AND MEXICAN NATIONALITIES MUST CARRY WITH THEM PROOF OF CITIZENSHIP OF BOTH COUNTRIES. Under Mexican law, dual nationals entering or departing Mexico must identify themselves as Mexican.


emperorjustinian July 16, 2012 @ 4:26 p.m.

Sergio, Can you provide me with a citation to Mexican Law concerning Mexican nationals' inability to drive a US registered vehicle?? Thanks, Justin.


Sergio Castro Aug. 26, 2012 @ 8:25 p.m.

Hi Justin,

Here's a link a the custom's agency where it describes who can drive foreign registered cars:

It is in Spanish.

The below link is from a local paper in Ensenada. The news is about a citizen being sent to jail in San Quintin because he was in possession of an "ilegal" vehicle:


Sign in to comment

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader