Japan has, once again, brought the argument of single citizenship versus dual citizenship to the forefront.
On the 21st of February, the Tokyo High Court ruled against their dual citizenship lawsuit in the Kasumigaseki district. The ruling maintains that the country’s ban on its citizens holding foreign nationality at the same time as remaining Japanese nationals is constitutional.
Japanese citizenship rules
The Japanese Nationality Act states that a child born to a Japanese parent is legally Japanese. Some nations determine a child’s nationality based on their birth country. This allows them also to hold their parent’s nationality.
In Japan, anyone with multiple nationalities needs to choose one. If the multi-citizenship is acquired before the age of 20 then they are to choose one before their 22nd birthday. Those who acquire citizenship of another country after turning 20 must decide which one to keep within a two-year period.
Tokyo High Court ruling supports Japan’s ban on dual citizenship
Article 11 of the nationality law states:
“If a Japanese citizen acquires the nationality of a foreign country of their own choice, that Japanese citizen loses Japanese nationality.”
Individuals who lost their Japanese nationality in this way have filed lawsuits in Tokyo and other cities, saying the provision violates the Constitution. On 21 February, the Tokyo High Court dismissed one of the cases filed by eight people living in Europe. The government argued that there was no national interest in permitting dual or multiple citizenships. The concern is that this will allow people to have voting rights or diplomatic protection in other countries.
The presiding Judge, Hideaki Mori, said:
“Dual citizenship could cause conflict in the rights and obligations between countries, as well as between the individual and the state.”
The plaintiffs of the lawsuit intend to appeal the high court ruling.
What does their Constitution say?
The court acknowledged that the second paragraph of Article 22 of the Constitution gives people the freedom to “divest themselves of their nationality.” But the ruling argued that the article does not actively guarantee them the freedom to retain their Japanese nationality when they acquire foreign citizenship.
Hitoshi Nogawa, a plaintiff in the case, argued that being forced to give up one’s nationality was a “painful experience.” Nogawa was forced to give up his nationality when he obtained a Swiss nationality due to job requirements.
This provision has been carried over from the old nationality law enacted in the Meiji Era (1868-1912). More than 25,000 Japanese have renounced their citizenship since 1985. Many of them, most likely, unknowingly.
So, is Japan’s ban on dual citizenship outdated?
As countless Japanese cross borders regularly for both business and leisure, it seems that nationality law may be a bit outdated. Some suggest that the law should be examined from the viewpoint of the reality that this affects people’s human rights.
The eight plaintiffs acquired foreign nationality for different reasons. They needed to obtain citizenship to continue the businesses they started, for instance, or to take public office. Some plaintiffs said they never imagined the step would affect their Japanese nationality.
Also Read: The Advantages of Having Dual Citizenship
What does Japan’s Nationality Act really mean for its dual citizens?
People’s nationalities define their rights and are closely linked to their identities. Maximum caution is required for forcibly stripping Japanese nationality from a person who has voluntarily acquired foreign citizenship.
As of October last year, around 1.3 million Japanese nationals lived abroad, and a record 550,000 of them were permanent residents. The reality is that these people could later face the need to acquire the nationality of the country where they currently reside.
For example, if Japanese nationals who have lost their citizenship under the law return to Japan to take care of elderly parents, they would be treated as “foreign nationals”. Then they could face all sorts of obstacles if they want to stay long-term in their homeland.
But Japanese nationals who have obtained foreign citizenship through birth and marriage are effectively allowed to have multiple nationalities. The provision, which automatically strips Japanese nationals of their citizenship when they acquire foreign nationality, stands out as an exceptionally rigid and harsh rule.
We recommended speaking to an expert at CS Global Partners before starting your journey to a second citizenship.
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