In conclusion, a comparison of countries with very different geographical and historical situations demonstrates the weight of legal tradition in the establishment of rules for citizenship. Substantive convergence takes place within preexisting legal frames and occurs only when states are subjected to important contradictions, Historical traditions in the matter of citizenship were in fact modified when disjunctures appeared between the consequences of traditional law and either the interest of the state itself or that of individuals who could legitimately claim a right to become citizens. Despite much academic writing to the contrary, there is no causal link between national identity and nationality laws.Despite traditional aversion to the idea of dual (or plural) nationality, it has become more and more common. No state seems to like the idea very much but most have come to some accommodation with it. There are many good reasons for this: the desire to maintain some hold over one's diaspora, the hope that some will eventually return, the possibility of losing citizens permanently to another nation, the wish to bind immigrants and their children tightly to the state in which they reside, and the sheer impossibility of controlling the creation and application of other state's citizenship laws.
Citizenship Today: a Global Perspective
And, of course, things change: a country of emigration becomes a country of immigration or vice versa, borders settle or are reset, other institutions arise (like the EU) and must be accounted for, and, let's face reality, people today are on the move more than ever. I think Patrick Weil is right, national identity may be one of the least important factors when it comes to making citizenship law.
However, a few countries have had the reputation of being rather stubborn about dual nationality. Germany and Japan are known to be rather hostile to the idea and what I had seen up to now seemed to confirm that. Then I realized that much of what I have read about German and Japanese citizenship law is fairly dated and so I thought it would be interesting to have a look at what these countries are saying today on the subject. And what I came up with, using information from the their foreign consulate websites, showed a far more nuanced position.....
Germany: Germany has a reputation for very strict application of jus sanguinis citizenship laws and some of the more scathing attacks on plural nationality that I have come across in my reading came from German courts. However, a look at the Canadian German Consulate General website's page on dual nationality reveals something quite different:
While the German rules on citizenship are based on the principle of avoiding dual citizenship,this principle does not apply to children who receive dual citizenship through descent from their parents (e.g. a German mother and a Canadian father). Also, children born in Canada to one or more parent(s) who hold the German citizenship at the time of the birth of the child may be dual citizens by law. From a German legal perspective, children who have held two (or sometimes more) citizenships from the time of their birth for the above described reasons will not have to decide for either of the citizenships when they turn 18.Another German Consulate website (U.S.) confirms this. In addition it appears that any German wishing to acquire another nationality through naturalization can also ask to retain German citizenship. The request is called "Beibehaltungsgenehmigung" and is granted (or not) on an individual basis.
So Germany does allow for dual citizenship under certain circumstances. This has not always been the case and so one has to wonder why it was changed. Patrick Weil's take on it was that German citizenship law was for many years influenced by its unstable borders (the division of Germany), the large German diaspora abroad and the presence of large numbers of immigrants on her soil. So one could argue that unification meant that laws could be reviewed and modified within the context of jus sanguinis tradition to reflect new realities.
Japan: The Japanese Ministry of Justice webpage, The Choice of Nationality, seems to be very clear on the subject:
A Japanese national having a foreign nationality (a person of dual nationality) shall choose either of the nationalities before he or she reaches twenty two years of age (or within two years after the day when he or she acquired the second nationality if he or she acquired such nationality after the day when he or she reached twenty years of age). If he or she fails to choose either of the nationalities, he or she may lose Japanese nationality. So, please don't forget the choice of nationality.Are there exceptions to this? Yes, it appears for example, that a Japanese national who is granted citizenship in another state for extraordinary service to that state (which many states do - including Japan) may keep it since he/she did not actually request it.
Also a quick pass through some of the message boards on the Net on this subject shows that at least some Japanese nationals simply fail to report the acquisition of another nationality to the Japanese government and continue to renew their Japanese passports. And this reveals an important weakness in all laws limiting plural nationality by a state - just how is that state going to enforce such laws beyond its borders since, to my knowledge, there is no such thing as a worldwide citizenship database, in which all countries declare its citizens to other states.
A Japanese citizen abroad probably would have to do something very public in the host country for the Japanese to be aware that its citizen has naturalized in another state. Something like election to public office or winning the Nobel Prize for Physics, for example. The latter did in fact occur in 2008 when Yoichiro Nambu won and it was initially reported in the Japanese press that a Japanese had won the prize and then the unsettling news came in: Nambu was born Japanese but at the time he won the Nobel he was a naturalized citizen of the United States. This meant that, under Japanese nationality law, he was not a Japanese citizen, and so Japan was deprived of any claim to having a Nobel Prize winner that year.
In response to this a committee was set up by the Liberal Democratic Party to review the nationality act with the idea of examining the possibility of allowing dual citizenship under some circumstances. I was unable to find more information about the results of their deliberations. If anyone has more information, please feel free to leave a comment and links.
As much as states would like to eliminate plural nationality, they face enormous obstacles in making this a reality. Enforcement is simply impractical in many cases and may even be against national interests. Over the years there has been a convergence toward tolerating plural nationality and, for all the rhetoric that comes out during election cycles, it seems highly unlikely that this trend will be reversed. It is simply not in anyone's interest to do so.