San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.S. Embassy Touches on Culture, Dual Nationality and Citizen Deaths Abroad

What type of culturalevents doesthe U.S. Embassysponsor?Promotingmutual understandingbetween CostaRica and theUnited States isone of the U.S.Embassy’s goals,and one way tomeet this goal is by encouraging culturalexchange. To this end, the embassy worksclosely with the Costa Rican-NorthAmerican Cultural Center.For example, it has supported the center’s“Promising Artists of the 21stCentury” program to bring talented students in the arts to CostaRica for performances at the center andthroughout the country. The participantsgive performances and master classes, andoften stay with Costa Rican host families.A jazz quintet from the renownedJuilliard School of Music in New Yorkrecently performed at the U.S.Ambassador’s residence and other venuesas part of the program. Another jazz groupfrom Juilliard is scheduled to come toCosta Rica in August.In February, the U.S. Embassy and thecultural center collaborated to bring theduo Soul of America to Costa Rica as partof the U.S. government’s activities forBlack History Month. The group, whoserepertoire showcased African-Americanmusic, from spirituals and ragtime toopera pieces, gave concerts in San José,and was also a hit in the Caribbean portcity of Limón, where it gave a concert anda master class.Periodically, the embassy assists privategroups in arranging concerts in CostaRica. The Long Island Youth Symphonywill visit June 29-July 2, and will entertainat the official reception celebratingU.S. Independence Day.The U.S. Embassy’s cultural endeavorsalso support Costa Rican artists.Recently, a collection of paintings bymembers of the Watercolor Association ofCosta Rica opened at the U.S.Ambassador’s residence, where they willbe exhibited for several months.Can a U.S. citizen have dual nationality?Dual nationality means that a personis a citizen of two countries at the sametime. This can occur as the result of avariety of circumstances, such as beingborn or naturalized in a foreign country. Ifa U.S. citizen living in Costa Rica obtainsCosta Rican citizenship without intendingto relinquish U.S. citizenship, the individualmay possess dual nationality. The keyis in the word “intent.”To renounce U.S. citizenship, a personmust voluntarily and with the intent torelinquish U.S. citizenship: 1) appear inperson before a U.S. consular or diplomaticofficer; 2) appear in person beforethe officer in a foreign country (normallyat a U.S. Embassy or Consulate); and 3)sign an oath of renunciation. Renunciationsthat do not meet these three conditionshave no legal effect.When it comes to the attention of aU.S. consular officer – usually during anindividual’s application for a passport –that a U.S. citizen has performed an expatriatingact (one that could potentiallyresult in loss of U.S. citizenship), such asswearing allegiance to a foreign country,the consular officer will ask the applicantif there was intent to relinquish U.S. citizenshipwhen performing the act. If theanswer is no, the consular officer will certifythat it was not the person’s intent torelinquish U.S. citizenship and, consequently,that the person has retained U.S.citizenship. If the expatriating act itselfshows intent, such as taking up armsagainst the United States, it may result inthe loss of U.S. citizenship.Dual citizens owe allegiance to boththe United States and the foreign country.They are required to obey the laws ofboth countries. U.S. citizens, includingdual nationals, must use a U.S. passportto enter and leave the United States.Dual nationals may also be required bythe foreign country to use its passport toenter and leave that country. Use of theforeign passport does not endanger U.S.citizenship.What does the U.S. Embassy do when aU.S. citizen dies abroad?One of the most important services theU.S. Embassy provides is assistance to therelatives of U.S. citizens who have diedabroad. When Costa Rican authoritiesnotify the U.S. Embassy of the death of aU.S. citizen, the embassy finds out asmuch as possible about the circumstancesand cause of death, and locates the next ofkin to notify them of the death.The embassy’s consular section providesinformation, and, with the writtenauthorization of the next of kin, serves asa liaison with local authorities regardingthe disposition of the remains and thebelongings of the deceased.Consular officers provide informationon local burial, cremation, transportationof ashes or remains back to the UnitedStates and information on local funeralhomes that have experience shippingremains internationally. The embassyissues a report of death abroad (similar toa legal death certificate), and assists thefamily in obtaining the official CostaRican death certificate.If the U.S. citizen’s death appears tobe the result of an accident or crime, theU.S. Embassy assists the family in contactingthe Costa Rican authorities investigatingthe circumstances surrounding thedeath.For more information, see the U.S.Embassy Web site under U.S. CitizenServices at If you have questions youwould like to see addressed in futurecolumns, e-mail

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