Dual Citizenship Caution

08 Aug Dual Citizenship Caution

Being a citizen of two countries brings many advantages, such as better-paying jobs, access to two social security systems and the protection of two governments.

But there are also many pitfalls.

When dual Australian-Swiss citizen Ernst travelled to Switzerland, he ended up with the country detaining him in its hospital system after he was diagnosed with dementia.

Despite his lawyer’s best efforts he was prevented from returning to Australia, where he had lived for more than 40 years.

He died in Switzerland last September.

The executor of his estate, lawyer Peter Ng, says it serves as a reminder to people that Australia can be prevented from intervening to any great extent in foreign jurisdictions.

“They need to recognise that there are instances where DFAT (the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) cannot do anything at all. They should also recognise that there are instances where DFAT isn’t going to do very much, and this is the problem with Mr Harlacher’s case, because DFAT took the option of leaving it to the Swiss because he was a Swiss national, born in Switzerland, (and was) in Switzerland. Had he gone to Russia via another country like Austria, he would have been fine.”

Dual nationals can get caught out when it comes to compulsory military service that exists in countries such as Israel.

People who come to Australia and were born overseas and become citizens with either their family or when they get older, and then they return to their home country and they haven’t, for example, done their military service before they left their home country, which is compulsory in many Middle Eastern and Asian countries, then they would be compelled to still undertake that military service.

Then there are the added complications if a couple gets divorced with two jurisdictions and two sets of laws. That situation can become far worse if there are children from the relationship that has broken down.

In many countries overseas, the male, or the father, has an automatic right to custody of the children, so it becomes a very serious issue. And people will do anything to protect their rights. And, often in cases with people overseas, they will exercise their rights of custody, and, you know, you could find that you could be left without your children.

Those holding dual Citizenship should be aware of the good and bad aspects of their situation.

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