Japan's Dual Citizenship Policy: Explained
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Japan's Dual Citizenship Policy: Explained

By Molly Kaiser for The J-Pop Exchange

In contrast to more lenient policies in the Americas, Japan does not allow for dual citizenship, raising a variety of concerns in an increasingly globalized world.

The Japanese Nationality Law enacted in 1985 made Japan essentially a single nationality state. It requires dual citizens to choose one nationality by the age of 22. Specifically, if a Japanese citizen obtained a foreign citizenship before the age of 18, they have to choose by the time they are 20. If dual citizenship is secured after the age of 18, the decision must be made within two years.

Different countries define citizenship and nationality in their own ways. According to the U.S. Department of State, "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." In Japanese, the word nationality means state membership and citizenship translates to a person's political rights and status in a country.

65% of countries and territories in Asia allow for dual citizenship, making it the most restrictive region in the world. In contrast, 91% of the Americas allow for multiple passports. One reason for the opposition to dual citizenship in Asian countries is the idea that it could cause competing loyalties during wartime, according to a CNN article.

According to Atsushi Kondo, a law professor at Meijo University, allowing dual citizenships can be beneficial during times of peace but a disadvantage during times of war. Some of the benefits of dual citizenship include more international employment opportunities, lowered university costs and visa-free travel.

In contrast, dual nationality can raise complex legal issues especially when global forces are in conflict. A famous example of this is Tomoya Kawakita, a US-born Japanese American dual citizen who worked for the Japanese government overseeing American Prisoners of War during WWII. When he returned to the states after the war, he was charged with treason and sentenced to death. He was later pardoned.

A modern example of the issues surrounding dual nationality is a recent lawsuit levied by a Japanese-born American with dual citizenship against the Japanese government, as reported by The Japan Times. Yuri Kondo lives in Southwestern Japan and her application to renew her Japanese passport in 2017 was denied. She became a U.S. citizen in 2004. In her lawsuit, she claims that the nationality law goes against the constitution, which guarantees the right to pursue happiness and equality.

Dual citizenship continues to be a relevant topic across the world. In mid-August, the Supreme Court in the Philippines ruled that a child born to a Filipino and a foreigner has dual citizenship by birth and does not need to be naturalized or renounce their foreign citizenship to run for office, according to CNN Philippines. On the other hand, in India, the government clarified earlier this month that dual citizenship is not permitted according to their Citizenship Act.


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