Permanent Membership: The Prohibition of Citizenship Renunciation

Harbers, I., & Steele, A. (2023). Permanent Membership: The Prohibition of Citizenship Renunciation. International Migration Review.

Dual citizenship is often seen as an indication that states are adopting more open membership policies. In some cases, however, dual citizenship is imposed because states lay claim to populations beyond their borders, and prohibit the renunciation of citizenship. This research note presents new data to describe which countries prohibit renunciation. First, we find that some states prohibit renunciation in administrative practice, even though national legal frameworks formally allow renunciation. Roughly one in five states — 38 total — prohibits citizenship renunciation in de facto or de jure terms. Second, prohibitions are regionally clustered in Latin America and the Caribbean (13 countries) and the Middle East and North Africa region (11 countries). Third, among the countries that prohibit renunciation, democracies and authoritarian regimes are fairly balanced (17 democracies vs. 21 autocracies). Fourth, democracies are more likely to formally prohibit renunciation, while autocracies also rely on de facto prohibition through administrative barriers, arbitrary procedures, or a failure to process requests. We connect citizenship prohibitions to diaspora governance, discuss its implications for citizens, and propose avenues for further research.