On June 2, a woman residing in Fukuoka Prefecture who had acquired American citizenship while practicing law in the U.S. took legal action asking the Japanese government to confirm her Japanese citizenship and invalidate its decision not to issue her a Japanese passport, claiming that “not recognizing dual citizenship is a violation of the Constitution.”
Photo by Fukuoka Now
Article 11 of the Nationality Law stipulates, “A Japanese citizen loses Japanese nationality when he or she acquires the nationality of a foreign country of his or her own volition.” Although this woman acquired U.S. citizenship of her own volition, children of international marriages may acquire dual, or in some cases, triple citizenship, automatically at birth or by their parents’ volition rather than by their own. However, Article 14 of the Nationality Law states:
(1) A Japanese citizen having the nationality of a foreign state shall select either nationality before reaching the age of twenty if the time of becoming a national of the foreign state and Japan is before reaching eighteen years of age, or within two years from that time if the time comes after reaching eighteen years of age.
(2) The selection of Japanese nationality shall be made through a declaration of choice of Japanese nationality and renunciation of foreign nationality (hereinafter referred to as “declaration of selection”) pursuant to the provisions of the Family Registration Act, other than through renunciation of foreign nationality. (Hereinafter referred to as “declaration of selection”) pursuant to the provisions of the Family Registration Law.
Until this year, people with dual nationality had until they turned 22 to decide whether to choose between renouncing their Japanese or foreign citizenship. However, because the age when Japanese are considered to have reached adulthood was lowered to 18 as of April 1, 2022, the upper age limit for an individual with dual citizenship to select their nationality was lowered to 20.
Strictly speaking, Japan does not recognize dual citizenship at all. Starting at age 20, children of internationally married parents are faced with a difficult choice: Which parent’s citizenship to renounce? The severity and difficulty of this choice may perhaps only be understood by children in a dual nationality situation.
One must go through the naturalization process if one chooses to renounce their Japanese citizenship but later wishes to re-acquire Japanese nationality. Even though the requirements for naturalization are greatly reduced compared to the process for those without a Japanese parent, this is a procedure that would not have to be done if dual citizenship were allowed.
People who grow up with two nationalities grow up with a connection to two mother countries. Forcing someone to renounce one of their mother countries forces them to officially disconnect from the dual identity they feel inside to meet the requirement of presenting a single nationality identity to the outside world.
The Nationality Law, Article 5, paragraph (1), item (i) lists as a requirement for naturalization: “continuously having a domicile in Japan for five years or more.” However, Article 8, paragraph (1), item (i) states that “a child of a Japanese citizen (excluding adopted children) who has a domicile in Japan” may be naturalized even if he/she does not meet the following requirements.
(i) The applicant has continuously resided in Japan for at least five years.
(ii) The applicant being at least 18 years of age and having the capacity to act according to the laws of his/her home country.
(iv) The applicant being able to make a living from the assets or skills of his/her spouse or other relatives with whom he/she shares a livelihood.
Normally, an applicant for naturalization is required to have resided in Japan for at least five years, but for children of Japanese nationals, the specific period of residence required is not stated. It is often said that a residence of at least six months is required. Still, there is no specific length of period stipulated in the Nationality Law, so there is a possibility that the application can be filed within six months of the applicant’s entry to Japan.
(It is usually advised that applicants should enter Japan, holding a Certificate of Eligibility of Spouse or children of Japanese nationals”)
Although the requirements for naturalization have been eased considerably for those wishing to re-acquire their Japanese citizenship, the procedure is still complicated. The principle of allowing a person to process only one nationality might have appeared to make common sense in the past, but with the more recent trend of the times to recognize diversity, an increasing number of countries are allowing dual nationality.
As a Japanese citizen, I hope that Japan will become a more tolerant society of diversity of identity.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure that the information on this article is accurate at the time of posting, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ. If you do require advice or wish to find out more about the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.
Text by: Masayo Boston (Certified Administrative Procedure Legal Specialist), June 2022
Legal Associates Office Boston (Fukuoka City)
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