The idea of citizenship and national identity is a complex one. Recently, I became a citizen of three countries on three different continents. I can now claim passports to the United States, the United Kingdom and Taiwan.
How did I qualify for three passports? I was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the United States when I was two years old. Growing up in America, I became eligible for U.S. citizenship when I was 11 years old. My family and I gave up our Taiwanese passports, not able to retain both citizenships at the time. In a full circle, I've recently gotten Taiwanese passport again after a simple two-page form proving I was born in Chai-yi. After having given it up 32 years ago when I got my U.S. citizenship, I'm back to being who I started off as. I don't think it means I'm regressing. I've just come back to embracing my original, my authentic identity, not worrying that much about pretending to be a full-blooded American. I can embrace all my Taiwanese, American and British nuances, rolled into one package.
It's a strange thing. I've been wanting to get my Taiwanese citizenship for 10 years and then within two weeks of starting the process, I had my application filled in and turned in. The application for my Taiwanese citizenship was about one page accompanied by a household registration certificate to prove I was born and lived in Taiwan.
And perhaps I was too keen to get dual citizenship while I was applying for another country's citizenship but it was getting easier and easier. It was almost easier than getting a Taiwanese birth certificate translated and certified.
I applied for British citizenship without any proof of where and when I was born. I had to take the Life in the U.K. test where I had to know that there were soccer teams for Wales, Scotland and England but not Britain. And I also had to know where would I hear a Scouser accent (Liverpool - hello Beatles!) and where would I be surrounded be a Geordie accent (a mumbly, nearly incomprehensible Newcastle-upon-Tyne accent that got Cheryl Cole fired from the American X Factor show).
The most recent proof I have of anything resembling a birth certificate was when I was 11 years old. I had a certified translation from the Taiwanese consulate in New York City to say I was born in China. It's such a weird thing to say I was born in a country which I visited once when I was 29 years old. All the time I thought it was America pressuring Taiwan but it's only now that I realized that it was Taiwan still maintaining that it's the rightful ruler of China and Taiwan.
More than five years ago, I moved to Scotland with my British husband. As I was renewing my U.S. passport to correct my place of birth from China to Taiwan (most definitely the country I was born in), my U.S. passport application was rejected on the grounds I had nothing to prove I was actually born in Taiwan. This set off a dilemma for me and I had nightmare visions of not having any passport at all, trapped in an airport like Edward Snowden when his only passport -- a U.S. one -- was revoked while he was on a layover in Moscow airport.
My fear of being stateless drove me obsessive, I went on a mission to get any passport I could get my hands on and was legally qualified to obtain. In this endeavor, I began to reflect on what it means to be a citizen of each country and why these three national identities from three different continents actually do apply to me. Stay tuned!