Legal Residency And Dual Citizenship Overseas

“I hate asking stupid questions, but I had never considered retiring overseas until I started reading all your information. I have only once read a slight hint about what happens to your U.S. citizenship when you do retire overseas. If you decide to, say, retire in Belize, of course you apply for citizenship, etc., in order to live their permanently. Now, my question is, do I have to give up my U.S. citizenship? In other words, denounce my ever being a U.S. citizen and be no longer considered from there?

“I am new to all of this retiring information, and I would love to retire someday overseas, but I can’t imagine giving up my U.S. birthright. Would I no longer be allowed to go back to the United States to live if I chose to?”

–Kay H., United States

The short answer is that, no, retiring to Belize (or to any other country) would have no effect on your status as a U.S. citizen. Retiring to another country (assuming you’re retiring there full time and have established formal residency) has nothing to do with citizenship, not your U.S. citizenship and not the citizenship of the new country, either. Residency is not citizenship. Residency is simply the right to be physically present in a country. Becoming a citizen of that country is something else.

You can have residency (that is, the right to live) in more than one country at a time…and you can hold citizenship for more than one country at a time–although not every country allows this. Some countries restrict “dual citizenship,” as it’s called. The United States is not one of these countries, though, and, as an American, you can also be a citizen of another (or more than one other) country.

Note that it’s also possible to “retire” overseas without obtaining formal residency. Every country allows tourists to visit for certain periods before having to establish residency; come and go without overstaying this “tourist” window, and you can avoid the residency hassle altogether.

On the other hand, having the right to live full time if you’d like to (that is, holding legal residency) in another country can be a good back-up plan.

Our new Passport To Freedom: The World’s Top Havens For Residency, Citizenship, And A Second Passport program discusses these questions, options, and opportunities in detail. More here.

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