In a new law that became effective June 1, 2024, the government of Ukraine eliminated a “residence abroad” exception that previously allowed Ukrainian males residing abroad to visit Ukraine temporarily. Prior to this law, males between the ages of 18 and 60 who held dual U.S.-Ukrainian citizenship or permanent residence in the United States were permitted to enter and depart Ukraine if they had deregistered their Ukrainian residency and registered their U.S. residency. As of June 1, Ukrainian males in this age group who live in the United States may no longer be able to depart Ukraine if they travel there — even if they are longtime U.S. citizens.

In conjunction with this change, Ukraine now requires Ukrainian citizen males between the ages of 18 and 60 who live abroad to register and/or update their military registration data in order to receive Ukrainian consular assistance. Thus, Ukrainian citizens who are living in the United States will need to hold military documents and update their military data with the Ukrainian government in order to obtain passport renewals and other services.

This article provides a summary of U.S. and Ukrainian citizenship laws, rights and obligations of dual citizens, consular services, and travel advisories for U.S. citizens who also hold Ukrainian citizenship.

Image courtesy of California National Guard, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons,

Dual Citizenship in the United States

The United States allows for its citizens to hold more than one nationality, whether the other citizenship(s) was acquired by birth, descent, naturalization or another method recognized by the foreign government.

Section 101(a)(22) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that “the term ‘national of the United States’ means (A) a citizen of the United States, or (B) a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United States.” Therefore, U.S. citizens are also U.S. nationals. Non-citizen nationality status refers only individuals who were born either in American Samoa or on Swains Island to parents who are not citizens of the United States. 

The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a national of two countries at the same time. U.S. law does not require a U.S. citizen to choose between U.S. citizenship and a foreign citizenship(s).  A U.S. citizen may naturalize or hold citizenship in a foreign country without any risk to their U.S. citizenship.

While current U.S. laws do not explicitly refer to dual nationality/citizenship, multiple legal cases from the past two centuries have addressed this concept. The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted U.S. statutes and international legal principles to mean that dual nationality is a recognized status in the United States. Thus, in the words of the Supreme Court, “a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both.”  Moreover, the Court stressed in a landmark 1952 case that “The mere fact that [an individual] asserts the rights of one citizenship does not without more mean that he renounces the other.” In a different decision from the same year, the Supreme Court held that U.S. Citizens who are born with dual nationality or who acquire a second nationality at an early age are not required to choose one nationality or the other when they become adults.

Chapter 7 of the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual defines “dual nationality” as “the simultaneous possession of two citizenships.” It explains that “dual nationality results from the fact that there is no uniform rule of international law relating to the acquisition of nationality,” since “each country has its own laws on the subject and confers its nationality on individuals on the basis of its national policy and law.”  The Foreign Affairs Manual explicitly provides that “a person cannot lose U.S. nationality unless they voluntarily relinquish that status.” Therefore, when individuals automatically acquire or retain their foreign citizenship, it does not affect their U.S. citizenship. 

Some of the words in the U.S. Naturalization Oath of Allegiance, which is recited when new U.S. citizens are naturalized at a formal ceremony, appear to contradict the concept of dual nationality:

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen…”

Despite these prominent phrases, both the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Department of State have confirmed that the United States 1) recognizes the concept of dual nationality and 2) allows U.S. citizens to hold more than one citizenship.

U.S. laws do provide that individuals who already have U.S. citizenship may lose it if they affirmatively apply for citizenship of a foreign nationality. To lose one’s U.S. citizenship under U.S. law, it must be proven that the U.S. citizen’s naturalization in a foreign country was obtained with the intention of relinquishing U.S. citizenship — either by their statements or by their conduct.  If the U.S. Government is unable to prove that the person had such an intention when applying for and obtaining the foreign citizenship, the person will continue to have both nationalities. 

More information on U.S. Citizenship and Dual Nationality can be found on U.S. Department of State’s website and Foreign Affairs Manual.

Dual Nationality in Other Countries

U.S. policy recognizes that each country has its own nationality laws based on its own policy. U.S. citizens may hold dual citizenship by choosing to acquire it or by automatic operation of law that does not provide them a choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizen parents may be both a U.S. national and a national of the country of birth. Or, a child born in the United States to a parent with another citizenship may also hold citizenship of the other parent’s country.

U.S. policy dictates that individuals with dual/multiple citizenship owe allegiance to both the United States and their other countries of citizenship. This is the case whether the other citizenship(s) is held knowingly or unknowingly, and whether or not the other country has issued them a passport.  Thus, even if a child is born abroad to U.S. citizen parents or is born abroad but acquires U.S. citizenship at a young age, that child remains subject to any citizenship laws imposed by the other country.

While U.S. policy provides that naturalized U.S. citizens are allowed to retain the nationality of their birth, not all countries have the same policy.

Certain countries do not permit dual nationality at all and may automatically revoke an individual’s citizenship as soon as the person swears allegiance to the United States or another country. Other countries do not automatically revoke citizenship but may not recognize naturalization in a foreign country as grounds for loss of their own country’s citizenship.

Therefore, the Foreign Affair Manual underscores that the U.S. Government does not endorse dual nationality as a matter of policy. This is due not only to the inherent issues that may arise from a dual citizen’s conflicting obligations but also to the limited diplomatic/consular protections the U.S. government may be able to provide to dual nationals while they are abroad.

Rights and Protections of U.S. Citizens in Foreign Countries

From a U.S. legal perspective, individuals with dual citizenship are subject to the laws of the other country and are required to obey the laws of both countries. Moreover, either country has the right to enforce its laws on the individual.

This can create challenges when U.S. citizens travel to other countries — especially to countries that don’t permit dual nationality. Some countries require visiting citizens to register their other citizenships, and certain countries mandate that dual citizens serve in the other country’s military. Other countries impose restrictions on its departing citizens by requiring them to obtain an exit visa or imposing an exit ban on dual nationals.

In fact, all U.S. citizens are subject to the laws and local regulations of the countries to which they travel. Hence, the U.S. government urges U.S. travelers to research the laws of the countries they plan to visit or live in and to learn which laws may be different from U.S. laws. 

Section 215 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act ( 8 U.S.C. 1185) requires U.S. Citizens to use U.S. passports when entering or leaving the United States unless one of the exceptions listed in Section 53.2 of Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations applies. Dual nationals may be required by the other country of which they are citizens to enter and leave that country using its passport, but do not endanger their U.S. citizenship by complying with such a requirement.

Even if they enter another country with a U.S. passport, U.S. dual citizens may face restrictions in the consular protections available to U.S. citizens, especially in the country of their other citizenship. This means that dual citizens who travel outside of the United States may only be able to receive limited U.S. assistance abroad. Local authorities in the other country may not recognize their U.S. citizenship if they are also a citizen of that country, especially if they did not enter that country using their U.S. passport. In some cases, U.S. consular officials may not even be allowed to access detained dual citizens if the citizen asks local law enforcement to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Ordinarily, in the event of an arrest or detention of a U.S. citizen abroad, the U.S. State Department instructs U.S. citizens to ask local law enforcement authorities to notify the U.S. embassy or consulate and to reach out to the closest U.S. embassy or consulate to let them know of the arrest. The U.S. government can then provide a list of local attorneys who speak English, inform the detained U.S. citizen’s family and close contacts of their detention, visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly, provide reading materials and nutritional supplements as needed, ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care, and provide the U.S. citizen with a general overview of the local criminal justice process.

The U.S. government stresses that it cannot “get U.S. citizens out of jail, state to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent, provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court, serve as official interpreters or translators, or pay legal, medical, or other fees.” 

Dual Citizenship in Ukraine

Ukraine is one of approximately 58 countries that does not recognize dual nationality. Thus, Ukrainians who were born with or once held Ukrainian citizenship do not automatically lose their Ukrainian citizenship when they acquire a new citizenship. This is true whether they become citizens of another country through voluntary naturalization, are born to Ukrainian citizen parents in another country, acquire the citizenship of another country through adoption to foreign citizen parents, or acquire another citizenship through marriage to a foreign citizen spouse.

However, the government of Ukraine does not impede a person’s ability to obtain citizenship in another country. Furthermore, Ukraine rarely revokes or terminates Ukrainian citizenship of those who acquire citizenship of other countries, although it is possible for the Ukrainian government to withdraw a person’s citizenship for certain fraudulent or treasonous acts, which could include engaging in military actions against Ukraine.

Additionally, one cannot unilaterally relinquish one’s Ukrainian citizenship. A request to renunciate one’s Ukrainian citizenship must be granted by the President of Ukraine. It is only possible to apply for renunciation of one’s Ukrainian citizenship if the individual already holds citizenship of another country or has been issued an official document confirming they will acquire its citizenship after renouncing their Ukrainian citizenship. This policy furthers Ukraine’s stated commitment to preventing statelessness.

For years, individuals who sought to renounce their Ukrainian citizenship were allowed to initiate the procedure in their new country of residence. Thus, a Ukrainian permanently residing abroad would fill out an application/petition for renunciation of citizenship of Ukraine and submit it, along with various biographical documents, to the Ukrainian government via a consulate. The decision to withdraw from citizenship of Ukraine was then made by the President of Ukraine, which was officially fixed by decree, and the individual ceased to be a citizen of Ukraine only as of the date the decree was issued.

However, Ukraine recently amended the procedure by which to request a renunciation of Ukrainian citizenship. Ukrainian citizen males who reside abroad may no longer make this request outside of Ukraine. Instead, males must now travel to Ukraine and make a personal request to have their Ukrainian citizenship renounced while they settle the issue of their military registration and request permanent residence abroad.

Women will be allowed to conduct this procedure by proxy.

Otherwise, individuals who are Ukrainian citizens by birth, application, or operation of law retain their Ukrainian citizenship unless it is either revoked or granted renunciation by the President of Ukraine.

While this policy may sound strict, it is important to note the Ukrainian citizenship laws came about after years of repression by governments that forcibly deprived some Ukrainians of their citizenship and left over 600,000 people from the former Soviet Union stateless two decades later. In response, when Ukraine gained its independence, the government codified in its Constitution laws that protect Ukrainian citizenship and signed the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

To learn more about acquiring Ukrainian citizenship, including common questions about Ukrainian citizenship, visit the official website of the State Migration Service of Ukraine.

To learn more about Ukraine’s laws on nationality and read the full text of the laws, visit the official website of the Parliament of Ukraine (Verkhovna Rada).

Travel by Dual Citizens to Ukraine

As explained earlier, Ukraine does not revoke a person’s citizenship after that person is granted U.S. citizenship, even after the person recites the U.S. Naturalization Oath of Allegiance or obtains a U.S. passport.

Therefore, U.S. citizens who also hold Ukrainian citizenship are treated solely as Ukrainian citizens while in Ukraine, and they are subject to the rights and obligations of Ukrainian citizens. For this reason, the U.S. Embassy warns that it is “limited in its ability to influence Ukrainian law, including the application of martial law and the mobilization law to Ukrainian citizens.” 

On April 16, 2024, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a law amending mobilization of citizens, which became effective May 18, 2024. Among other things, the law lowered the age of mobilization from 27 to 25 years and required all individuals who are subject to military service to update their personal data within 60 days. Furthermore, men of conscription age (18 to 60) are required to have a military registration documents and must able to present them to a Ukrainian military official or police officer upon request.

Another key change required all Ukrainian citizen males living abroad to register and/or update their military registration data in order to receive Ukrainian consular assistance. Ukrainian citizen men between the ages of 18 and 60 who live abroad will not be able to receive consular services, including passport renewals if their passports expire or new passports if they lose them, unless they possess Ukrainian military registration documents.  

Finally, in a new law that became effective June 1, 2024, the government of Ukraine eliminated a “residence abroad” exception that previously allowed certain Ukrainian males aged 18 to 60 to visit Ukraine temporarily. Prior to June 1, males of conscription age who held dual U.S.-Ukrainian citizenship or permanent residence in the United States were permitted to enter and depart Ukraine if they had deregistered their Ukrainian residency and registered their U.S. residency.

As of June 1, Ukrainian males in this age group who live in the United States may no longer be able to depart Ukraine if they travel there — even if they are longtime U.S. citizens.

Consequently, the U.S. State Department “strongly recommends against all travel to Ukraine by U.S. citizen males aged 18 to 60 who also have Ukrainian citizenship or a claim to Ukrainian citizenship and who do not wish to stay in Ukraine indefinitely” and warns “there is an extremely high risk [they] will not be allowed to depart, even with a U.S. passport.” At this time, no one knows for how long the restriction on travel will last.

**Accordingly, U.S.-Ukrainian citizen males between the ages of 18 and 60 who choose to travel to Ukraine should prepare for the possibility that they may not be able to leave Ukraine once they arrive there, unless they can qualify for an exemption under Ukrainian law. If they are prevented from leaving, it is critical for them and their families to understand that neither diplomatic intervention nor private legal action from the U.S. may be effective in obtaining approval for them to leave.** Their only recourse, if any, could be through Ukrainian legal channels with assistance from a Ukrainian attorney based on interpretation of Ukraine’s laws of mobilization and authorized travel for citizens.

According to Voice of America, some attorneys advise individuals who must travel to Ukraine to draft a will, discuss the care of their children and property, and even leave DNA samples with doctors in case their families need to access them.

Additionally, U.S. citizens face an elevated risk of harm if they travel to Russian-occupied areas due to their nationality. Multiple reports have been confirmed involving Russian forces and their proxies singling out U.S. citizens for detention, interrogation or persecution. U.S. citizens have also been transported from Ukraine into Russia and Belarus.

To learn more about Ukraine’s military mobilization law and read the provisions of the legislation, visit the official website of the Parliament of Ukraine (Verkhovna Rada).

To read the U.S. government’s warnings about travel to Ukraine, visit the official website of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.

Who is Subject to Travel Restrictions in Ukraine

Per the laws of mobilization, men between the ages of 18 and 60 who hold Ukrainian citizenship are not allowed to travel outside of Ukraine unless they meet an exception to mobilization.

Certain women who hold Ukrainian citizenship are also subject to travel restrictions.  

On September 7, 2023, the Ukrainian government announced that Ukrainian citizen women who work in medical or pharmaceutical professions or have an education in these specialties who are of conscription age (18 to 60) and are fit for military service are not allowed to leave Ukraine without special permission. They may be called up for military service at any time, but they may not be mobilized without their consent. In addition, they were required to register for military service at enlistment offices starting October 1, 2023.

In fact, women who work in medical professions – including doctors, dentists, midwives, nurses, pharmacists, pharmaceutical specialists, scientific researchers, heads of health care units – as well as women who have pharmaceutical or medical education have been required to register with the Ukrainian government per laws that were adopted in 1992. However, not all pharmacists and medical workers have complied with these regulations. Following legislation adopted in 2022 by the Ukrainian government, women with medical and pharmaceutical education must register for military service by December 31, 2026. According to the Ukrainian government, women who fail to register could be barred from working in their profession.

Under the new law that became effective on May 18, 2024, women with these backgrounds who are already registered for military service, must report to the Territorial Recruitment and Social Support Center within 60 days of the law’s enactment, that is, by July 18, 2024. The new law does not change the deadline by which women with pharmaceutical or medical education must register, so the requirement to come to the Territorial Recruitment and Social Support Center by the end of 2026 remains in effect.

Women and men may be exempt from mobilization if:

  • they have three or more children under the age of 18
  • they have a child/children under the age of 18, and the other parent of such child/children is deceased, deprived of parental rights, declared missing, serving a sentence in places of detention, or declared dead, as well as when a person independently raises and supports a child by a court decision
  • they are guardians, custodians, foster parents, caregiver parents, or raising a child under the age of 18 with disabilities
  • they have a minor child/children and a husband/wife who is in military service
  • they have health exemptions
  • they are students or certain types of instructors

Individuals who are not exempt from mobilization may still be able to travel outside of Ukraine if they are able to obtain permission from the Ukrainian government to do so.

Additionally, individuals could potentially be discharged from military service in the event of:

  • pregnancy (for female service members)
  • independently raising or adopting a minor child
  • raising a minor child with a disability
  • taking care of an adult child with a Group 1 or 2 disability as defined by law
  • being required to provide constant care for a spouse who has an existing Group 1 or 2 disability, or a Group 3 disability from a new condition (ex. cancer, loss of limbs)

To learn more about procedures for travel outside of Ukraine for Ukrainian citizens, visit the official website of the State Border Guard of Ukraine.

To learn more about Ukraine’s military mobilization law and read the provisions of the legislation, visit the official website of the Parliament of Ukraine (Verkhovna Rada).