Dual Citizenship as Human Right

International Journal of Constitutional Law (I-CON), Forthcoming

Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-41

26 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2009 Last revised: 29 Oct 2009

See all articles by Peter J. Spiro

Peter J. Spiro

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Date Written: October 14, 2009


For most of modern history, dual citizenship was considered an anomaly at best and an abomination at worst. It has since become a commonplace of globalization. The sequence has been from strong disfavor to toleration; some states have moved to embrace the status. Could plural citizenship now achieve the status of a right?

This essay makes a bounded case for recognizing a right to acquire and/or maintain plural citizenship where an individual is otherwise eligible for the status. It does so through the optics of freedom of association and liberal autonomy values. Citizenship comprises both a form of association and a vehicle for individual identity. The liberal state has no business obstructing alternate national ties in the absence of a compelling interest. That interest once existed, to the extent that dual nationality destabilized interstate relations, and explains the historical opprobrium attached to the status. Laws directed at reducing the incidence of dual citizenship may also unjustifiably burden the exercise of political rights.

Today, the material downside risks (if any) posed by plural citizens have dissipated to the point that the state is no longer justified in suppressing the status. To the extent that dual citizenship undermines social solidarities necessary to liberal governance, that is too diffuse an interest to overcome individual autonomy values. The essay concludes with some indirect evidence from practice that dual citizenship is gaining traction as a right.

Keywords: citizenship, dual citizenship, dual nationality, freedom of association, human rights

Suggested Citation

Spiro, Peter J., Dual Citizenship as Human Right (October 14, 2009). International Journal of Constitutional Law (I-CON), Forthcoming, Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-41, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1489005

Peter J. Spiro (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

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