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Some countries make naturalization conditional upon the renunciation of other citizenship, due to a prohibition of multiple citizenship. This poses a problem when someone is a national of a country that does not allow renunciation of citizenship under any circumstances.

What is the rationale for a country to not permit renunciation of citizenship, even when nationals acquire the citizenship of another country?

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    I think you need to focus on a specific country that does not allow it. The reasons for the US not to allow it may be vary different from those of Russia.(just 2 examples) – SoylentGray Mar 14 '17 at 19:15
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    Gerrit, I think @SoylentGray's examples were chosen to represent two arbitrary countries that disallow renunciation, and the disclaimer was intended to convey that SoylentGray actually has no idea whether those two specific countries disallow it. The US certainly allows it, which is why I came to that conclusion. – phoog Mar 15 '17 at 2:21
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    I've opened up a question on Meta about this. – indigochild Mar 15 '17 at 15:51
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    @indigochild I agree with the position in your meta question: asking generally about different approaches to a specific policy question should be on topic. For example, any country in a debate about whether to change its laws governing the renunciation of nationality would want to consider the positions and experiences of all other countries, precisely the issues that this question raises. I have voted to reopen this question. – phoog Mar 15 '17 at 17:26
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    You can always renunciate a citizenship, you just may not be able to do it successfully if your country disagrees. If you are citizen of A and want to become citizen of B, it may be good enough for B if you tried to renunciate citizenship of A, and A didn't let you. – gnasher729 Mar 15 '17 at 21:49
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A quick search through scholarly literature (limited to articles not behind a paywall) turned up a few reasons:

  • Some states are insular, meaning they do not encourage either the gain or loss of citizenship. Basically, the state controls citizenship decisions without input from the citizen.
  • Some states enjoin the ethnic and legal aspects of citizenship. These states encourage citizenship by birth, but limit legal gain or loss of citizenship.
  • Internationally, there is a growing trend toward multiple citizenships. This trend limits any need for a mechanism to renounce citizenship, since renouncing citizenship is increasingly less common as a requirement of gaining a new citizenship.

Insularity Ethnic Selection

Two reasons why states choose to limit renunciation of citizenship are insularity and ethnic selection. In a cross-national statistical analysis [1], political scientists reduced a variety of citizenship policy variables to just two dimensions. Their analysis provided two explanations for a state to limit renunciation of citizenship:

  1. Insular states exercise strong control over both immigration and emigration. Their policies are intended to prevent both the gain and loss of citizenship. The authors don't speculate much on this type, but the feeling is that in these countries it is the state who makes decisions about who is a citizen, not the individual. The strongest example is Denmark, although Austria, Estonia, and Switzerland are also in this category.
  2. Some states have an ethnocultural connection to citizenship. In these states, citizenship is more than a legal right, it is also imbued with the cultural connations (history, culture) and ethnicity. These states are likely to support a broad view of citizenship by birth, but not legal acquisition or loss of citizenship. Accordingly, these countries either don't allow citizenship to be renounced or make it relatively difficult. Countries in this category include Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovakia, and Poland.

Trends toward Plural Citizenship

There may also be a trend toward plural citizenship, which reduces any motivation to allow citizens to renounce citizenship [2]. The legal reason to allow a citizen to renounce their citizenship is because historically, mono-citizenship (citizenship in only one country at a time) was the norm. A citizen would have to renounce their citizenship before they could become citizens of another country. In this setting, a clear way to renounce citizenship is important.

Increasingly plural-citizenship is becoming more normal. In a world where a person can be a citizen of more than one country at once, countries do not have a strong motivation to provide a mechanism to renounce citizenship. There is simply no business-case for it because people are increasingly able to gain additional citizenships without renouncing their original one.


[1] Vink, Maarten Peter, and Rainer Bauböck. 2013. “Citizenship configurations: Analysing the multiple purposes of citizenship regimes in Europe.” Comparative European Politics 11(5): 621–48. http://www.fcsh.unl.pt/media/cep201314a.pdf.

[2] Spiro, Peter J. 2010. "Dual citizenship as a human right." International Journal of Constitutional Law 8(1): 111-130. https://academic.oup.com/icon/article/8/1/111/682643/Dual-citizenship-as-human-right

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Usually, countries that disallow renunciation of citizenship do not prohibit it outright. But rather, the citizen needs to meet certain criteria before renunciation.

I'll list some examples below:

  1. Singapore -- Male citizens of Singapore are required to serve National Service (military service) for 2 years before they can renounce their citizenship.

  2. Turkey -- Similarly, one has to pay an exception fee or obtain a deferment should one want to renounce Turkish citizenship without completing the compulsory military service.

So, as seen in the examples, countries usually don't prohibit renunciation of citizenship but citizens have to fulfil some criteria before they can renounce their citizenship (e.g., completing compulsory military service).

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  • I'm not sure that these two countries are enough to convince me of what "usually" happens. – indigochild Mar 31 '17 at 2:33
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    @indigochild The examples are actually used to complement what "usually" happens. My main answer is in the first paragraph. – Panda Mar 31 '17 at 2:38
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The case I know is not addressed (not even in general) by the other answers. The case is that of Argentina, where the courts decided a few years ago that renunciation of citizenship is unconstitutional (link in Spanish, I don't think there's an official English version of this).

Explicitly, the judges declared that for someone who was born in Argentina being an Argentinean citizen is "a human right that cannot be renounced". In the process, they forced two persons who wanted to emigrate to Lithuania to stay in Argentina. A curious view of "human rights".

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The purpose of citizenship is to control people. Not allowing people to renounce their citizenship is a way governments try to control people outside their borders, and force them to join the military.

If a person acts in a way that the government does not like or tries to avoid military service, the government can arrest that person if their return (in order to force them to join the military) or use the threat of arrest to exile that person.

If a person can renounce their citizenship it is harder to punish that person for actions outside the country or force them to join the military.

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  • I've done a copyedit. Please have look to see if I've changed the meaning. – James K Jul 19 '18 at 6:32

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