More people than ever are exploring the lifestyle, identity and inherent benefits of multiple citizenships. We explore this developing global trend, and what it might mean for the future.
In our interconnected world, the notions of home, identity and citizenship are becoming increasingly complex. As a result, we’ve seen a new breed of global citizen: the “multi-local.” But what does multi-localism entail? It’s pretty simple. Essentially, anyone who holds two or more passports and has personal links to more than one country could fit the bill.
Multi-local people are becoming increasingly common thanks to an increasing interest in having dual and multiple citizenships, coupled with greater tolerance by governments around the world. In fact, back in 1960, just one-third of countries allowed dual citizenships compared with 75% in 2019.
“The number of countries allowing dual citizenship is increasing every year. That reflects the changing needs of citizens globally,” says Armand Arton, president and founder of Arton Capital. “Dual citizenship has become the norm – sticking to a single passport or a single residency will be an inconvenient and undesirable proposition for many in the future.”
As awareness around global citizenship – and its benefits – grows, people’s attitudes have changed dramatically. “Having multiple citizenships used to be a taboo because people assumed it wasn’t allowed,” he says. “But, in the last 10 years, people have become more aware that it’s not only possible but there are also many clear, legal pathways to gain citizenship.”
Arton points to the end of World War II, when more than 60 million people were displaced, as a turning point for multi-localism. “It became more normal for people to be born in one country and die in another – or spend a third of their life in one place before moving elsewhere. I think people also became much more aware of the importance and the necessity of having multiple citizenships or residencies.”
With more people living in a multitude of places over their life, more cross-cultural marriages have also contributed to the global trend toward multi-local identities. These days, it’s quite common for people to have parents of different nationalities who can share multiple cultural identities, and in some cases, citizenship, with their families.
“It’s always a tricky question when someone asks me where I’m from,” says Jeniffer Chiat, a South African journalist who has lived in Hong Kong for four years, and recently acquired a Lithuanian passport through ancestral ties. “South Africa will always be my home, because it’s where I was born and grew up. But I lived in Hong Kong and that feels like home, too.”
With her Lithuanian passport, Chiat hopes to move to Europe to explore her family’s heritage and further her career. “So Lithuania will feel like home then, as well.” Adding to the appeal, Chiat will benefit from better mobility and freedom of movement with her Lithuanian passport. “As much as I love South Africa, our passport is quite restrictive,” she says. “As Lithuania is part of the European Union, I can now live and work anywhere in the bloc. Travel is also far more accessible with an EU passport.”
For Lucia*, a business development manager in Hong Kong’s private aviation industry, the notion of having a single identity has become almost antiquated, pointing to her daughter’s upbringing as a case in point.
“In this age, the idea of home is transcendent, so even though we live in Hong Kong, we’re teaching her the history and culture of her British and Slovakian roots, and speaking to her in English, Slovakian, and the local language, Chinese.” An InterNations study found that 81 percent of expats speak at least two languages while at least 31 percent speak some of the local language.
So what does the future of multi-localism look like? Peter Spiro, a professor of immigration law at Temple University, believes that in the short term, a desire for security will drive dual citizenships due to COVID-19. “There will be more reasons to naturalize,” he says. “Migrants will look to formalize their right to remain and re-enter the country of naturalization in the event of a subsequent pandemic or emergency event, especially if they are able to retain their citizenship of origin.”
Arton shares this view; much like after WWII, the pandemic is likely to increase numbers of people with two or more citizenships. “People are realizing that access is a valuable thing,” he says. “To be labelled by your country of birth or passport right now could be very limiting, but for those with dual citizenship, they have more options.”
“More than 75 percent of passports have a mobility score of less than 100 on our Passport Index, which is the average,” says Arton. “So, of course, they’re much more open to the idea of migrating and getting another residence or citizenship.”
It’s clear that multi-localism is here to stay, as more people consider the advantages of multiple citizenships: security, business, mobility, culture, lifestyle, identity and more. With this trend comes a greatly expanded definition of home, and access to new cultures and languages, all of which are coalescing to form a new breed of global citizen.
*Name changed for privacy reasons.