Alien (law)

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In law, an alien is a person who is not a citizen or national of a given country, [1] [2] though definitions and terminology differ to some degree depending on the continent or region of the world. The term "alien" basically means a foreign national. [3]

Law System of rules and guidelines, generally backed by governmental authority

Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been defined both as "the Science of Justice" and "the Art of Justice". Law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process. The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.

A person is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a culturally established form of social relations such as kinship, ownership of property, or legal responsibility. The defining features of personhood and consequently what makes a person count as a person differ widely among cultures and contexts.

Citizenship is the status of a person recognized under the custom or law as being a legal member of a sovereign state or belonging to a nation.



The term "alien" is derived from the Latin alienus, meaning stranger, foreign, etym. "belonging (somewhere) else".[ citation needed ] Similar terms to "alien" in this context include foreigner and lander. [4]

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Stranger person who is unknown to other persons

A stranger is a person who is unknown to another person or group. Because of this unknown status, a stranger may be perceived as a threat until their identity and character can be ascertained. Different classes of strangers have been identified for social science purposes, and the tendency for strangers and foreigners to overlap has been examined.

Etymology Study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time

Etymology is the study of the history of words. By extension, the term "the etymology " means the origin of the particular word and for place names, there is a specific term, toponymy.


Different countries around the world use varying terms for aliens. The following are several types of aliens:

A foreign national is any person who is not a national of the country in which he or she is residing or temporarily sojourning. For example, a foreign national in Canada is someone who is neither a Canadian citizen nor a permanent resident.

Permanent residency status of a person in a country

Permanent residency is a person's resident status in a country of which they are not citizens. This is usually for a permanent period; a person with such status is known as a permanent resident. In the United States, such a person is officially referred to as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).

A temporary resident is a foreign national granted the right to stay in a country for a certain length of time, without full citizenship. This may be for study, business, or other reasons.

Common law jurisdictions

An "alien" in English law denoted any person born outside of the monarch's dominions and who did not owe allegiance to the monarch. Aliens were not allowed to own land and were subject to different taxes to subjects. [10] This idea was passed on in the Commonwealth to other common law jurisdictions.

English law legal system of England and Wales

English law is the common law legal system of England and Wales, comprising mainly criminal law and civil law, each branch having its own courts and procedures.

Real property legal term; property consisting of land and the buildings on it

In English common law, real property, real estate, realty, or immovable property is land which is the property of some person and all structures integrated with or affixed to the land, including crops, buildings, machinery, wells, dams, ponds, mines, canals, and roads, among other things. The term is historic, arising from the now-discontinued form of action, which distinguished between real property disputes and personal property disputes. Personal property was, and continues to be, all property that is not real property.

A British subject is a member of a class of British nationality largely granted under limited circumstances to people connected with Ireland or British India born before 1949. The term itself has historically had several different meanings, but is currently used to refer to a nationality class which was created to accommodate individuals who held a status previously called British subject without citizenship. Individuals with this nationality are British nationals and Commonwealth citizens, but not British citizens.


In Australia, citizenship is defined in the Australian nationality law. Non-citizens in Australia are either permanent residents; temporary residents; or illegal residents (technically called "unlawful non-citizens"). [11] Most non-citizens (including those who lack citizenship documents) traveling to Australia must obtain a visa prior to travel. The only exceptions to this rule are holders of New Zealand passports and citizenship, who may apply for a visa on arrival according to the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement. [12]

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Australian nationality law law governing who is and who is not a citizen of Australia

Australian nationality law determines who is and who is not an Australian citizen. The status of Australian nationality or Australian citizenship was created by the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948, which came into force on 26 January 1949. The 1948 Act was amended many times, notably in 1973, 1984, 1986 and 2002. It has been replaced by the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, commencing on 1 July 2007.

Visa policy of Australia visa policy

The visa policy of Australia deals with the requirements that a foreign national wishing to enter Australia must meet to obtain a visa, which is a permit to travel, to enter and remain in the country. Visa rules are set out in the Migration Act 1958 and the Migration Regulations, which are administered by the Department of Home Affairs.


In Canada, the term "alien" is not used in federal statues. Instead, the term "foreign national" serves as its equivalent and is found in legal documents. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act defines "foreign national" as "a person who is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, and includes a stateless person." [13]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the British Nationality Act of 1981 defines an alien as a person who is not a British citizen, a citizen of Ireland, a Commonwealth citizen, or a British protected person. [14] The Aliens Act of 1905, the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act of 1914 and the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act of 1919 were all products of the turbulence in the early part of the 20th century.

United States

World War II poster from the United States. "WARNING - ALIENS - ARMY SERVICE FORCES". (Provost Marshall General) - NARA - 516037.jpg
World War II poster from the United States.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of the United States, "[t]he term 'alien' means any person not a citizen or national of the United States." [15] [1] Every foreign national, including a refugee or an asylum seeker, is considered as an alien unless his or her status has been lawfully upgraded. [16] [3] [17] [18]

A lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States is not a foreign national but explicitly referred to as a legal immigrant, [3] [5] [19] especially if he or she was previously admitted as a refugee under 8 U.S.C. § 1157(c). [16] Longtime LPRs can at any time claim to be nationals of the United States (i.e., Americans), which requires a case-by-case analysis and depends mainly on the number of continuous years such LPRs have physically spent in the United States. [20] [21] [22]

The usage of the term "alien" dates back to 1798, when it was used in the Alien and Sedition Acts. [23] Although the INA provides no overarching explicit definition of the term "illegal alien", it is mentioned in a number of provisions under title 8. [6] Several provisions even mention the term "unauthorized alien". [24] According to PolitiFact, the term "illegal alien" occurs in federal law, but does so scarcely. [25] PolitiFact notes that, "where the term does appear, it’s undefined or part of an introductory title or limited to apply to certain individuals convicted of felonies." [25]

Because the U.S. law says that a corporation is a person, the term alien is not limited to natural humans because what are colloquially called foreign corporations are technically called alien corporations. Because corporations are creations of local state law, a foreign corporation is an out-of-state corporation.

There are a multitude of unique and highly complex U.S. domestic tax laws and regulations affecting the U.S. tax residency of foreign nationals, both nonresident aliens and resident aliens, in addition to income tax and social security tax treaties and Totalization Agreements. [26]

Other jurisdictions

Arab states

In the Arab states of the Persian Gulf (United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, etc.), many non-natives (foreigners) have lived in the region since birth or since independence. However, these Arab states of the Persian Gulf do not easily grant citizenship to the non-natives. [27] [28] [29]


On Latvian passports, the mark nepilsoņi (alien) refers to non-citizens or former citizens of the Soviet Union (USSR) who do not have voting rights for the parliament of Latvia but have rights and privileges under Latvian law and international bilateral treaties, such as the right to travel without visas to both the European Union and Russia, where latter is not possible for Latvian citizens.

See also

Related Research Articles

Naturalization process by which a non-citizen in a country may acquire citizenship or nationality of that country

Naturalization is the legal act or process by which a non-citizen in a country may acquire citizenship or nationality of that country. It may be done automatically by a statute, i.e., without any effort on the part of the individual, or it may involve an application or a motion and approval by legal authorities. The rules of naturalization vary from country to country but typically include a promise to obeying and upholding that country's laws, taking and subscribing to the oath of allegiance, and may specify other requirements such as a minimum legal residency and adequate knowledge of the national dominant language or culture. To counter multiple citizenship, most countries require that applicants for naturalization renounce any other citizenship that they currently hold, but whether this renunciation actually causes loss of original citizenship, as seen by the host country and by the original country, will depend on the laws of the countries involved.

Lawful permanent residents (United States) lawful permanent residency in the USA

Lawful permanent residents, also known as legal permanent residents, and informally known as green card holders, are immigrants under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), with rights, benefits, and privileges to reside in the United States permanently. There are an estimated 13.2 million green card holders of whom 8.9 million are eligible for citizenship of the United States. Approximately 65,000 of them serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

United States nationality law Law of American nationality and citizenship

The United States nationality law refers to the uniform rule of naturalization of the United States set out in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, enacted under the power of Article I, section 8, clause 4 of the United States Constitution, which grants the Congress the power to "establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization..." The 1952 Act sets forth the legal requirements for the acquisition of, and divestiture from, American nationality. The requirements have become more explicit since the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, with the most recent changes to the law having been made by Congress in 2001.

Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 act of congress that amended the Immigration and Nationality Act

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, Division C of Pub.L. 104–208, 110 Stat. 3009-546, enacted September 30, 1996, made major changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of the United States, which the bill's proponents argued was mainly due to the rapidly growing illegal immigration population in the country. "These IIRIRA changes became effective on April 1, 1997."

Oath of Allegiance (United States)

The Oath of Allegiance of the United States is the official oath of allegiance that must be taken and subscribed by every lawful permanent resident (LPR) who wishes to become a national of the United States (American). The only LPR who cannot take this oath of allegiance is one who is "removable" from the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Barbadian nationality law

The Barbadian nationality law is governed by both the Barbados Citizenship Act and the Barbados Constitution.

Deportation of Cambodian refugees from the United States refers to the refoulment of Cambodian-Americans convicted of a common crime in the United States. The overwhelming majority of these individuals in removal proceedings were admitted to the United States in the 1980s with their refugee family members after escaping from the Cambodian genocide, and have continuously spent decades in the United States as legal immigrants.

Waiver of inadmissibility under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is a legal remedy available to every person found to be "removable" from the United States. It is statutorily linked to cancellation of removal, which is another form of relief under the INA that effectively operates parallel to waiver of inadmissibility.

Cancellation of removal or termination of removal, formerly known as suspension of deportation, under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of the United States is a legal remedy available to all qualified people who have been placed in removal proceedings. Cancellation of removal is linked by reference to a waiver of inadmissibility, which is another form of relief under the INA that effectively operates parallel to cancellation of removal.

The term aggravated felony was created by the United States Congress as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to define a special category of criminal offenses. The INA says that certain aliens "convicted of an aggravated felony shall be considered to have been convicted of a particularly serious crime." Every "legal immigrant," including a "national but not a citizen of the United States," who has been convicted of any aggravated felony is ineligible for citizenship of the United States, and other than a refugee, every alien who has been convicted of any aggravated felony is ineligible to receive a visa or be admitted to the United States, if his or her "term of imprisonment was completed within the previous 15 years."

Removal proceedings are administrative proceedings to determine an alien's removability from the United States and his or her eligibility for relief under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Procedural defenses such as collateral estoppel and double jeopardy do not apply to the current removal proceedings, and the burden of proof required in these proceedings differ between lawful permanent residents of the United States and foreign nationals.

Citizenship of the United States Wikipedia article covering multiple topics

Citizenship of the United States is a status that entails specific rights, duties and benefits. Citizenship is understood as a "right to have rights" since it serves as a foundation of fundamental rights derived from and protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, such as the right to freedom of expression, vote, due process, live and work in the United States, and to receive federal assistance. The implementation of citizenship requires attitudes including allegiance to the republic, participation, and an impulse to promote communities. Certain rights are so fundamental that they are guaranteed to all persons, not just citizens. These include those rights guaranteed by the first 8 Amendments that pertain to individuals. However, not all U.S. citizens, such as those living in Puerto Rico, have the right to vote in federal elections.

Petition for review

In some jurisdictions, a petition for review is a formal request for an appellate tribunal to review and make changes to the judgment of a lower court or administrative body. If a jurisdiction utilizes petitions for review, then parties seeking appellate review of their case may submit a formal petition for review to an appropriate court. In the federal judiciary of the United States, the term "petition for review" is also used to describe petitions that seek review of federal agency orders or actions.

Luna Torres v. Lynch, 578 U.S. ___ (2016), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that an "aggravated felony" under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) encompasses every conviction of section 150.10 of the New York Penal Law, regardless if the state offense is missing the interstate or foreign commerce element.

Relinquishment of United States nationality

Relinquishment of United States nationality is the process under federal law by which a U.S. citizen or national voluntarily and intentionally gives up that status and becomes an alien with respect to the United States. In U.S. law, renunciation of United States citizenship is a legal term encompassing two specific procedures for giving up U.S. citizenship by swearing an oath of renunciation before a designated U.S. government official, but there are five other acts by which an American may give up U.S. citizenship as well, and "relinquishment of citizenship" rather than "renunciation of citizenship" is the term which encompasses all seven acts. Relinquishment is distinct from denaturalization, which in U.S. law refers solely to cancellation of illegally procured naturalization.

An immigration judge, formerly known as a special inquiry officer, is an employee of the United States Department of Justice who confers U.S. citizenship or nationality upon lawful permanent residents who are statutorily entitled to such benefits. An immigration judge also decides cases of aliens in various types of removal proceedings. During the proceedings, an immigration judge may grant any type of immigration relief or benefit to an alien, including to his or her family members.

Deportation of Afghan refugees from the United States refers to the refoulment of Afghan refugees with no criminal conviction and the involuntary removal of Afghan-Americans who have been convicted of a common crime in the United States. Some of these individuals in removal proceedings were admitted to the United States in the 1980s with their refugee family members after escaping from genocide and persecution, and have continuously spent decades as legal immigrants.

Deportation of Americans from the United States refers to the involuntary removal of U.S. citizens or nationals who have been convicted of a common crime in the United States. Such deportation entitles Americans to seek damages, which may include immigration benefits and/or money, in the form of injunctive relief under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents. Some Americans have been placed in immigration detention centers to be deported but were later released. "Recent data suggests that in 2010 well over 4,000 U.S. citizens were detained or deported as aliens[.]"


  1. 1 2 Garner, Bryan A. (June 25, 2009). alien (9th ed.). Black's Law Dictionary. p. 84. ISBN   0-314-19949-7 . Retrieved August 17, 2018. A person who resides within the borders of a country but is not a citizen or subject of that country; a person not owing allegiance to a particular nation. - In the United States, an alien is a person who was born outside the jurisdiction of the United States, who is subject to some foreign government, and who has not been naturalized under U.S. law.
  2. "alien". Webster’s Dictionary of Law . 1996. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  3. 1 2 3 52 U.S.C.   § 30121(b) (explaining that "the term 'foreign national' means—.... (2) an individual who is not a citizen of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 1101(a)(22) of title 8) and who is not lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined by section 1101(a)(20) of title 8.").
  4. Van Houtum, Henk. "The mask of the border." The Routledge Research Companion to Border Studies. Routledge, 2016. 71-84.
  5. 1 2 8 U.S.C.   § 1101(a)(20) ("The term 'lawfully admitted for permanent residence' means the status of having been lawfully accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States as an immigrant ....") (emphasis added).
  6. 1 2 See, e.g., 8 U.S.C.   § 1252c(a)(1) ; 8 U.S.C.   § 1330(b)(3)(A)(iii) ; 8 U.S.C.   § 1356(r)(3)(ii) ; 8 U.S.C.   § 1365(b) ("An illegal alien ... is any alien ... who is in the United States unlawfully...."); 8 U.S.C.   § 1366 .
  7. "Immigration Terms and Definitions Involving Aliens". United States: Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  8. "Homeland Security: More than 600,000 foreigners overstayed U.S. visas in 2017". USA Today. August 7, 2018. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  9. "DHS: 700K-plus Overstayed US Visas Last Year". Voice of America (VOA). August 7, 2018. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  10. William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1753), Book 1, Chapter 10
  11. Key Issue 5. Citizenship Fact Sheet 5.2 Citizenship in Australia Retrieved 2012-03-05.
  12. "Australia's Visitor and Temporary Entry Provisions" (PDF). Joint Standing Committee on Migration, Parliament of Australia. September 27, 1999. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 29, 2011. Retrieved July 20, 2011.
  13. Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (S.C. 2001, c. 27)
  14. section 51, British Nationality Act 1981
  15. 8 U.S.C.   § 1101(a)(3) (emphasis added); 8 U.S.C.   § 1101(a)(22) ("The term 'national of the United States' means (A) a citizen of the United States, or (B) a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United States."); Ricketts v. Att'y Gen., 897 F.3d 491, 493-94 n.3 (3d Cir. 2018) ("Citizenship and nationality are not synonymous."); Jennings v. Rodriguez , 583 U.S. ___, ___-___ (2018), 138 S.Ct. 830, 855-56 (2018) (Justice Thomas concurring) ("The term 'or' is almost always disjunctive, that is, the [term]s it connects are to be given separate meanings.").
  16. 1 2 8 U.S.C.   § 1182(h) ; Matter of J-H-J-, 26 I&N Dec. 563, 564-65 (BIA 2015) (collecting court cases); see also 8 U.S.C.   § 1157(c) ("Admission by Attorney General of refugees...."); see also 8 U.S.C.   § 1159(a) ("Inspection and examination by Department of Homeland Security"); Ahmadi v. Ashcroft, et al., No. 03-249 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 19, 2003) ("Petitioner in this habeas corpus proceeding, entered the United States on September 30, 1982 as a refugee from his native Afghanistan. Two years later, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (the 'INS') adjusted Petitioner's status to that of a lawful permanent resident.") (Baylson, District Judge); Ahmadi v. Att'y Gen., 659 F. App'x 72 (3d Cir. 2016); Jaghoori v. Holder, 772 F.3d 764 (4th Cir. 2014).
  17. See generally 8 U.S.C.   § 1101(a)(13)(C)(v) (eff. 1996); see also Matter of Campos-Torres, 22 I&N Dec. 1289 (BIA 2000) (en banc).
  18. 8 U.S.C.   § 1229a(e)(2) ("The term 'removable' means—(A) in the case of an alien not admitted to the United States, that the alien is inadmissible under section 1182 of this title, or (B) in the case of an alien admitted to the United States, that the alien is deportable under section 1227 of this title."); see also Tima v. Att'y Gen., 903 F.3d 272, 277 (3d Cir. 2018) ("Section 1227 defines '[d]eportable aliens,' a synonym for removable aliens.... So § 1227(a)(1) piggybacks on § 1182(a) by treating grounds of inadmissibility as grounds for removal as well."); Lolong v. Gonzales, 484 F.3d 1173, 1177 n.2 (9th Cir. 2007) (noting that "the terms 'deportable' and 'deportation' can be used interchangeably with the terms 'removable' and 'removal,' respectively.").
  19. "60 FR 7885: ANTI-DISCRIMINATION" (PDF). U.S. Government Publishing Office. February 10, 1995. p. 7888. Retrieved January 30, 2019. Our efforts to combat illegal immigration must not violate the privacy and civil rights of legal immigrants and U.S. citizens.
  20. See generally 8 U.S.C.   § 1101(a)(23) ("The term 'naturalization' means the conferring of nationality of [the] [United States] upon a person after birth, by any means whatsoever.") (emphasis added); 8 U.S.C.   § 1436 ("A person not a citizen who owes permanent allegiance to the United States, and who is otherwise qualified, may, if he becomes a resident of any State, be naturalized upon compliance with the applicable requirements of this subchapter...."); 8 U.S.C.   § 1452(b) ("Application to Secretary of State for certificate of non-citizen national status; proof; oath of allegiance"); 22 C.F.R. 51.1 (" U.S. non-citizen national means a person on whom U.S. nationality, but not U.S. citizenship, has been conferred at birth under 8 U.S.C. 1408, or under other law or treaty, and who has not subsequently lost such non-citizen nationality.") (emphasis added); Ricketts v. Att'y Gen., 897 F.3d 491 (3d Cir. 2018) ("When an alien faces removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act, one potential defense is that the alien is not an alien at all but is actually a national of the United States."); Saliba v. Att'y Gen., 828 F.3d 182, 189 (3d Cir. 2016) ("Significantly, an applicant for naturalization has the burden of proving 'by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she meets all of the requirements for naturalization.'"); see also TRW Inc. v. Andrews , 534 U.S. 19, 31 (2001) ("It is a cardinal principle of statutory construction that a statute ought, upon the whole, to be so construed that, if it can be prevented, no clause, sentence, or word shall be superfluous, void, or insignificant.") (internal quotation marks omitted).
  21. Khalid v. Sessions, 904 F.3d 129, 131 (2d Cir. 2018) (an LPR proved himself to be a national of the United States); Jaen v. Sessions, 899 F.3d 182, 190 (2d Cir. 2018) (same); Anderson v. Holder, 673 F.3d 1089, 1092 (9th Cir. 2012) (same); see also Dent v. Sessions, 900 F.3d 1075, 1080 (9th Cir. 2018) ("An individual has third-party standing when [(1)] the party asserting the right has a close relationship with the person who possesses the right [and (2)] there is a hindrance to the possessor's ability to protect his own interests.") (quoting Sessions v. Morales-Santana , 582 U.S. ___, ___, 137 S.Ct. 1678, 1689 (2017)) (internal quotation marks omitted); Gonzalez-Alarcon v. Macias, 884 F.3d 1266, 1270 (10th Cir. 2018).
  22. Landon v. Plasencia , 459 U.S. 21, 32 (1982) (reminding that "once an alien gains admission to our country and begins to develop the ties that go with permanent residence, his constitutional status changes accordingly.").
  23. "Alien and Sedition Acts". Retrieved November 23, 2011.
  24. 8 U.S.C.   § 1324a(h)(3)
  25. 1 2 "Is 'illegal alien' a term in federal law?". @politifact. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  26. "Foreign Nationals: Non-Resident Aliens and Resident Aliens". Protax Consulting Services.
  27. Habboush, Mahmoud. "Call to naturalise some expats stirs anxiety in the UAE".
  28. "Say no to expats calling for Saudi citizenship". November 24, 2013.
  29. "GCC Citizenship Debate: A Place To Call Home - Gulf Business". January 5, 2014.