We Americans are lucky to hold the strongest passport in the world. There are few places we cannot openly travel to, and many of the restricted ones simply require some paperwork and a fee.
However, many of us also have a right to dual-citizenship, an incredible opportunity that’s not to be missed. I’m here to tell you one reason that you may not have considered for getting your citizenship:
That’s right, you heard me. Now, let’s put aside the real reasons to get a passport for a moment. Forget that European citizenship, for example, gives you the right to work and live in 28 incredibly beautiful countries. It allows you to work with employers that guarantee nearly of a month vacation, respect worker’s rights, and give 6 months-1 year of maternity leave. Citizenship buys you the ability to get medical treatment should you get sick, and the peace of mind that comes with never having to wonder if your children will be able to afford a good university. If you’re a travel-nut like me, it also allows you to get reduced-fee or free visas, depending on the country you decide to visit.
Story 1: Reunited And It Feels So Good
Recently, a family member of mine decided to get their Portuguese citizenship. He was originally born there, so he took a quick trip to the embassy one afternoon. 20 minutes, 25 dollars, and a fingerprint later, he became a citizen of 2 countries with rights to 27 others.
The paperwork he was given in return held something of interest: The name of his biological father.
This individual hadn’t seen their father since he was a child. Consistently throughout his early life, he had been told that his biological father had left him and didn’t care about his existence. He was raised, instead, by a good man that his mom married later whom he called ‘Dad’. When he grew older and became an adult, he felt little need to reach out and find this man who left.
That was, until this little piece of paper showed his father’s (unexpected) last name.
That name combined with some Facebook searching didn’t lead to the discovery of a father, however. Instead, it led to the discovery of a sister he didn’t he had. Before long, the two began talking.
“She said that my dad would talk about me all the time growing up. She knew she had brothers somewhere.,” he told me one afternoon. “He searched for us for so long but lost track once we came to the U.S. because our names changed.”
A few months later, he found himself on a plane, nervous for a 20+ year family reunion.
The photographs he took on that reunion don’t tell the full story – a man sits at a crowded table with new family. Beside him are his father and new sister, and smiles fill the air. Behind those photographs are difficult conversations that piece together a broken, misinformed past. The tears are not reflected in the images either, but instead in his recounting of that day.
“We told him a bit about our upbringing. He became so emotional that he needed to leave the room.”
Story 2: Woes in Different Area Codes
I also went to get my dual-citizenship.
That morning, I walked into the embassy with confidence and excitement. Wanting to settle abroad, I didn’t think twice about taking advantage of the opportunity.
A funny aspect of getting Portuguese citizenship is that in addition to needing to have both of your parents be born in Portugal, you must also have their marriage registered there. So, I showed up with the necessary documents in hand:
One birth certificate. One marriage certificate.
The receptionist took my paperwork and began typing away. After a few minutes, she paused, looked up at me and said, “I can’t run this through.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Your father is already married to someone else in Portugal.”
Now, this is shocking for two reasons:
1.) My father isn’t alive.
2.) Wait, what?
Apparently, my father had a previous marriage that we didn’t know about. Presumably, this legal marriage was left untouched when he left the country.
I thought getting broken up by text was bad, but this man just hopped on a one-way flight. Hot-damn, Dad!
Story 3: Insert Yours Here
So, there you have it – two dual-citizenship trials led two a reunited family, new sibling, and an old marriage. And all I wanted was access to a job with a few extra coffee breaks!
If you have right to a dual-citizenship, I urge you to consider applying, even if it’s not something you think you need. It’s still easy to do, and change happens fast. The ability to get up and go is much easier if you have countries with open doors for you. Besides, I promise if you travel abroad enough, you will fall in love with one other way of life you never knew could be yours.
If nothing else, you may just learn a thing or two about your family and have a good story to tell.