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The Best of Both Worlds: My Journey to Gaining Dual Citizenship

In her essay, Donicia Hodge explains the steps she has taken to obtain a second passport including some of the bumps she experienced along the way.

Dual citizenship me, please!

I started the journey to gain dual citizenship in my mother’s homeland of Antigua, with its sky blue waters and white sandy beaches and it has been a journey. I'm writing this so people learn from my mistakes. It has been incredible learning about my heritage. As for my mother, I watched the joy on her face as she visited relatives and childhood friends, who still live in the same homes after almost 40 years ago from day when she left.

It’s been 27 years too long since I’ve been back to St. John’s, Antigua. My mom hadn’t been back home since I was 7-years old. At that time, it was for her father’s funeral. I had never met my maternal grandparents. Never saw a single picture, nothing. I didn’t ask too many questions about them until I became an adult and my mom began speaking more about them after she turned 60.

“I want to go home for my birthday, and you should get your dual citizenship while we’re there,” she said one day out of the blue. My mom said it, so I knew from that moment on, that’s what needed to be done.

I started to reach out to my cousins and aunts who lived in Antigua. They all agreed dual citizenship was an important step for me take. It means that a person has passports and full citizenship access two countries, and both states recognize the rights and obligations of a person in relation to each country at the official level. They guided me through the process, which I am still undergoing.

Do Your Homework

Every country is different, so do your research. There are two ways to obtain dual citizenship in Antiqua. One way is through heritage and parentage, the route I am currently taking. There is also the Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP). For those who don’t have parentage on the small Caribbean island, the CIP is a $100,000 investment allows individuals and families up to four to apply. But there are other related cost such as government fees, due diligence fees, and passport fees. The only other way would be to marry an Antiguan for at least three years.

Here's some advice on going to the passport office in Antigua: Arrive early to avoid waiting on line. Appointments are not accepted, so it is literally on a first come, first serve basis. Dress appropriately. Antiguan government officials like when customers look professional, although you're not expected to pose for any photos. Nonetheless, think of it as a job interview.

United States of America passport
Your U.S. passport is feeling lonely.

The passport renewal process after the appointment, like for my mom, can take anywhere from three weeks or longer. For first time applicants, like myself, the process is longer because Antiguan authorities need to conduct thorough background checks. They also require new passport pictures.

I went to CVS to take my passport pictures, which was a very easy and quick process. Passport pictures can cost about $16-$20 USD, depending on where you go. Please read all passport photo guidelines to avoid having to redo them. I had to retake mine because my hair covered my ears. Now I know that Antigua requires women to wear their hair pulled back.

While in Antigua, my mother and I went to the post office to obtain an Antiguan stamp to pay for the application, which costs 100 ECD (the equivalent of $37 USD) or Eastern Caribbean dollars, which is their currency.

Documents And More Documents

Antiguan officials require clients to bring original documents, including birth certificate, baptism certificate, a copy of U.S. passport and application. They also require certification of the passport before arriving at the office. Certified means someone who can vouch for you has signed your paperwork. It’s best to ask a pastor, but officials prefer a notary public because they can stamp and sign documents. 

If the application is completed in the United States, then clients would need someone to certify it in the states. If you get it certified in another country, then you’ll have to apply in that country’s passport office. This was also another reason why my application was rejected. I got my application certified in the states instead of Antigua. I also did not have my original birth certificate.

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In the U.S., you have to call the consulate’s office in your respective city. For me, I had to reach out to the consulate in New York City to make an appointment to be seen. In preparation for your appointment, there is a checklist. You need all original and copies of your documents. For example, birth certificate, parent’s birth certificates, U.S. passport, and a driver’s license. You'll also need an affidavit/apostille to show proof of your identity. An apostille will authenticate that your documents are valid for use in another country.

Each state and or country has different rules on how an affidavit/ apostille works, but it is basically the same. Your documents are presented and have to be certified by an intermediary. In New York State, it is a county clerk. Once it's certified by the county clerk, it is eligible for seal of apostille. This will be your birth certificate, which needs to be sealed by your local town clerk depending on where you were born. Since my mom and dad were legally married in the U.S. and my mother changed her last name, she had to get a sealed affidavit/ apostille from the county clerk from where she was married. Her old Antiguan passport bore her maiden name. As a result, she was not able to update her Antiguan passport and I was not able to get my dual citizenship in Antigua.

Why Even Go There?

Dual citizens can receive the benefits and privileges offered by each country where they live. For example, if the law permits, they have access to both social services systems, can vote in either country, or may be able to run for office in either nation. More advantages of having a dual citizenship are non-citizen taxes if you want to buy land or have a business. You can even work there without having a work permit or extended stay.

Beautiful woman standing in the shallow water enjoying a tropical sunset, Caribbean, Antilles, Central America
And then there are the sunsets.

Visas expire after a certain amount of time, but your dual citizenship will have to be renewed if the passport expires.

I always say a setback can only lead to a major comeback. Although, my application was rejected, I plan on going to the embassy in New York City to apply again and this time, I'm going to do it correctly.

Wish me luck!

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