Japan Dual Citizenship

Are you allowed to have dual citizenship in Japan?

In contrast to the United States and many other countries, Japan takes a stricter view of individuals holding more than one nationality (dual citizenship). Since the situations and laws can easily become a bit complex, we’re going to provide a bit of context to help paint a clear picture:

How do you get dual citizenship?

So, how does one come by dual citizenship in the first place? Dual citizenship occurs when one person acquires nationality (and hence, passports, the sign of national identity), from more than one country. This can happen when a child is born of parents of mixed nationality, or of parents who are living in a country other than that of their citizenship.

An example may help: a child born of a German mother and an American father living in America would have dual citizenship (German and American), assuming the parents took the trouble to apply for the German citizenship in Germany (the US citizenship comes automatically for someone born in the US).

Dual Citizenship in Japan

Therefore, a child born in Japan of mixed parents would be eligible for both Japanese citizenship and the citizenship of their foreign parent (for most countries). However, when the child becomes an adult, the picture would look a bit different…

Restrictions on Dual Nationality in Japan

Unlike many countries who tolerate (but don’t officially endorse) dual citizenship, Japan chooses to actively crack down on the dua citizenship. Thus, when a Japanese national holding a foreign nationality turns 20, they will be required to choose one sole citizenship (Japanese or foreign) within 2 years (ie, before the age of 22).

Moreover, a Japanese national who acquires an additional citizenship after the age of 20 would be required to choose a single citizenship within two years of acquiring the additional citizenship.

For complete details you should contact the Japanese Embassy or Ministry of Justice in order to read the full text of the law.

Here is an excerpt from an English translation of the Japanese law on dual citizenship, courtesy of the Japanese Embassy in the USA:

According to Japanese law, for dual nationals there is a specific period of time within which one must choose one’s nationality.  As regards the acquisition of dual nationality, there are the following five examples: 

  •   A child born to a Japanese citizen father or mother and a mother or father from a country that allows transmission of citizenship by a parent of either gender (for example, France). 

  • A child born to a Japanese citizen mother and a father from a country whose laws provide for transmission of citizenship only through the father (for example, Korea). 

  • A child born to a Japanese citizen mother or father, or two Japanese citizen parents, in a country whose laws provide for acquisition of citizenship by birth in that country (for example, the United States). 

  • A child of a Japanese citizen who is legitimated by a foreign father’s declaration of paternity (for example, Canada), by a foreign parent through adoption (for example, Switzerland), or through marriage to a foreigner (for example, Switzerland). 

  • People who have acquired Japanese nationality through naturalization, or by filing a declaration of acquisition of Japanese nationality, but who did not forfeit their former foreign nationality, must also choose which nationality they wish to hold. 

For Japanese citizens holding a foreign nationality, below are listed the methods for declaring a single nationality.  When the time comes to choose one nationality, think carefully and then make your decision known by one of the following methods.

Based on the applicable foreign law, submit to the nearest city, ward or town office, or to a Japanese Embassy or Consulate abroad, the form Gaikoku Kokuseki Soositu Todoke, showing your abandonment of your foreign nationality. For specifics on the procedures for renouncing a foreign nationality, please consult directly with the foreign government or its representatives.

At the nearest city, ward or town office, or at a Japanese Embassy or Consulate abroad, you must state your decision to choose Japanese nationality and abandon your foreign nationality on a special form called the Kokuseki Sentaku Todoke.

Despite these relatively clear guidelines, stories abound of people trying to skirt the restrictions on dual nationality by “hiding” their second citizenship from Japan. Obviously this is not recommended and you should consult an immigration attorney as to the repercussions.

One response to “Japan Dual Citizenship”

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