kitchen table math, the sequel: citizenship-grovelling

Saturday, May 3, 2008


While talking with a student about politics after economics class:

"Who are you going to vote for this year? Obama, McCain or Hillary?"
"Actually ... I can't vote cuz I'm not a citizen."
"If it's any comfort, I would have leant towards more libertarian candidates like Gravel or Paul."


Hope people won't mind me making a slightly off-topic, tangentially-related-to-education post here. :-)

After weathering the oh-so-relaxing process of getting a financial aid package two days before the May 1st deposit deadline (because my expired green card nearly derailed the college application process), I've come to ponder naturalisation to become a US citizen. The tricky thing is that the government of my birth country (Singapore) doesn't allow dual citizenship. ("We have yet to reach the stage of nationhood where a Singaporean with a second citizenship would still retain his identity and loyalty to Singapore as his homeland wherever he goes, with his second citizenship being only of secondary importance," a particularly hurtful government officer once wrote.)

I have been contemplating the question, "Well if I did naturalise, how would the Singapore government know anyway?" I feel strongly attached to both nations, and for a while I thought the current arrangement was satisfactory, allowing me to live in both places. This year's close shave has made me think otherwise.

If I do naturalise, I would end all risk of future deportation and in general stop being treated like a second-class citizen (well, technically *not* a citizen, but I digress. I wouldn't have to renew my green card every ten years and pay exorbitant renewal fees (which is why my mother took so long to renew our cards). Being able to vote at least once in my lifetime is a plus, for my birth country's elections are at the present moment, a joke. Being able to run for office is a bigger plus. Not being denied job opportunities in the public sector especially in sensitive areas of government might be a good thing. (The FBI once offered my mother an attractive position ... only to find out she wasn't a citizen.) If I ever get drafted I won't be prevented from becoming an officer. Finally, access to all the fun things that citizens enjoy.

On the other hand, I could risk the possibility of losing my Singaporean citizenship. Political reform in my birth country is a big thing for me, and it would be nice not being disqualified from participating in the political process there. One day the Opposition after all might gain enough strength to pass laws allowing dual-citizenship in Parliament. There is also the small issue of being able to visit my extended family, revisit my friends, eat the cuisine, reminisce about childhood, and all the fun things about coming back to your place of birth.

I am wondering if anyone would possibly have any idea if the US government would inform my birth country of my act?

If there's a significant chance to the otherwise, do you all think I could also naturalise in time to cast a ballot for oh, I don't know, Obama?


Rudbeckia Hirta said...

If you did naturalize, the most likely way that Singapore would discover it is by looking at your travel documents when you return. Pretty much the only rule that the U.S. has about dual citizens is that all U.S. citizens MUST use a U.S. passport to enter the U.S. This means that your Singaporean passport would not have any entry stamps to the U.S. in it.

Independent George said...

And taxes; are you contributing to the Provident Fund? If you naturalize and start contributing to FICA, you need a certificate of coverage to ensure you don't pay social taxes on both countries, as well as settling whatever contributions you've already made.

Anonymous said...

I think who is a citizen of what country is freely available in this day and age of anti-terrorism. I am sure that countries are aware that somone might be using two different passports and have ways of detecting this.

Your choice between two different countries is a hard one.

Anonymous said...

The US doesn't actually recognize "dual citizenship", either, but they can't stop someone from partaking in the other country's citizenship rights to a large degree. It's just that the US isn't going to forfeit its rights to your taxes, no matter what.

But first, let's say you travel: do you leave on a US passport? You best return on that passport, because unless your customs agent is asleep at the wheel, you won't be allowed into the country without a visa, etc. And if you went to Singapore on a US passport, then by definition, they'd see you as a US citizen. If you don't leave on the US passport and then try to return on it, they will wonder how you left, and ask how you came to be entering when you didn't leave, etc.

But the other answers are tax related. They are going to tax you as if you are