Citizenship of the United States

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United States nationality confers the right to acquire a U.S. passport. The one shown above is a post-2007 issued passport. A passport is commonly used as an identity document and as proof of citizenship. Us-passport.jpg
United States nationality confers the right to acquire a U.S. passport. The one shown above is a post-2007 issued passport. A passport is commonly used as an identity document and as proof of citizenship.

Citizenship of the United States [2] [3] is a status that entails specific rights, duties and benefits in the United States. 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 rights to freedom of expression, vote, due process, live and work in the United States, and to receive federal assistance. [4] [5] The implementation of citizenship requires attitudes including allegiance to the republic, participation, and an impulse to promote communities. [6] Certain rights are so fundamental that they are guaranteed to all persons, not just citizens. Not all citizens have the right to vote in federal elections, e.g. those living in Puerto Rico.


There are two primary sources of citizenship: birthright citizenship, in which a person is presumed to be a citizen if he or she was born within the territorial limits of the United States, or—providing certain other requirements are met—born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent, [7] [8] and naturalization, a process in which an eligible legal immigrant applies for citizenship and is accepted. [9] These two pathways to citizenship are specified in the Citizenship Clause of the Constitution's 1868 Fourteenth Amendment which reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

14th Amendment

National citizenship signifies membership in the country as a whole; state citizenship, in contrast, signifies a relation between a person and a particular state and has application generally limited to domestic matters. State citizenship may affect (1) tax decisions and (2) eligibility for some state-provided benefits such as higher education and (3) eligibility for state political posts such as U.S. senator.

In Article One of the Constitution, the power to establish a "uniform rule of naturalization" is granted explicitly to Congress.

U.S. law permits multiple citizenship. Citizens of other countries who are naturalized as U.S. citizens may retain their previous citizenship, though they must renounce allegiance to the other country. A U.S. citizen retains U.S. citizenship when becoming the citizen of another country, should that country's laws allow it. U.S. citizenship can be renounced by Americans who also hold another citizenship via a formal procedure at a U.S. embassy. [10] [11]

Rights, duties, and benefits


The U.S. military has been an all-volunteer force since the end of the Vietnam War, but male U.S. citizens and non-citizens are still required to register for the military draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Army.afnews.jpg
The U.S. military has been an all-volunteer force since the end of the Vietnam War, but male U.S. citizens and non-citizens are still required to register for the military draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday.


U.S. citizens may be summoned to serve on a jury. Jury summons.jpg
U.S. citizens may be summoned to serve on a jury.
Citizens are required to file U.S. taxes even if they do not live in the U.S. Form 1040, 2005.jpg
Citizens are required to file U.S. taxes even if they do not live in the U.S.


Civic participation

Civic participation is not required in the United States. There is no requirement to attend town meetings, belong to a political party, or vote in elections. However, a benefit of naturalization is the ability to "participate fully in the civic life of the country". [16] Moreover, to be a citizen means to be vitally important to politics and not ignored. [21] There is disagreement about whether popular lack of involvement in politics is helpful or harmful.

Vanderbilt professor Dana D. Nelson suggests that most Americans merely vote for president every four years, and sees this pattern as undemocratic. In her book Bad for Democracy , Nelson argues that declining citizen participation in politics is unhealthy for long term prospects for democracy.

However, writers such as Robert D. Kaplan in The Atlantic see benefits to non-involvement; he wrote "the very indifference of most people allows for a calm and healthy political climate". [22] Kaplan elaborated: "Apathy, after all, often means that the political situation is healthy enough to be ignored. The last thing America needs is more voters—particularly badly educated and alienated ones—with a passion for politics." [22] He argued that civic participation, in itself, is not always a sufficient condition to bring good outcomes, and pointed to authoritarian societies such as Singapore which prospered because it had "relative safety from corruption, from breach of contract, from property expropriation, and from bureaucratic inefficiency". [23]

Dual citizenship

Dual citizenship means persons can travel with two passports. Both the United States and Nicaragua permit dual citizenship. Dual Citizenship, Two Passports.jpg
Dual citizenship means persons can travel with two passports. Both the United States and Nicaragua permit dual citizenship.

A person who is considered a citizen by more than one nation has dual citizenship . It is possible for a United States citizen to have dual citizenship; this can be achieved in various ways, such as by birth in the United States to a parent who is a citizen of a foreign country (or in certain circumstances the foreign nationality may be transmitted even by a grandparent) by birth in another country to a parent(s) who is/are a United States citizen/s, or by having parents who are citizens of different countries. Anyone who becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen is required to renounce any prior "allegiance" to other countries during the naturalization ceremony; [24] however, this renunciation of allegiance is generally not considered[ clarification needed ] renunciation of citizenship to those countries. [25] [ failed verification ]. The United States Department of State confirms on their website that a US citizen can hold dual nationality: "A U.S. citizen may naturalize in a foreign state without any risk to his or her U.S. citizenship" [26]

The earliest recorded instances of dual citizenship began before the French Revolution when the British captured American ships and forced them back to Europe. The British Crown considered subjects from the United States as British by birth and forced them to fight in the Napoleonic wars. [27]

Under certain circumstances there are relevant distinctions between dual citizens who hold a "substantial contact" with a country, for example by holding a passport or by residing in the country for a certain period of time, and those who do not. For example, under the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART) Act of 2008, U.S. citizens in general are subject to an expatriation tax if they give up U.S. citizenship, but there are exceptions (specifically 26 U.S.C.   § 877A(g)(1)(b) ) for those who are either under age 18½ upon giving up U.S. citizenship and have lived in the U.S. for less than ten years in their lives, or who are dual citizens by birth residing in their other country of citizenship at the time of giving up U.S. citizenship and have lived in the U.S. for less than ten out of the past fifteen years. [28] Similarly, the United States considers holders of a foreign passport to have a substantial contact with the country that issued the passport, which may preclude security clearance.

U.S. citizens are required by federal law to identify themselves with a U.S. passport, not with any other foreign passport, when entering or leaving the United States. [29] The Supreme Court case of Afroyim v. Rusk declared that a U.S. citizen did not lose his citizenship by voting in an election in a foreign country, or by acquiring foreign citizenship, if they did not intend to lose U.S. citizenship. U.S. citizens who have dual citizenship do not lose their United States citizenship unless they renounce it officially. [30]

History of citizenship in the United States

A Welcome to U.S.A. Citizenship - Pub. M-76 (rev. 09/1970) A-Welcome-to-USA-Citizenship-USGPO-Pub-M-76-1970.pdf
A Welcome to U.S.A. Citizenship – Pub. M-76 (rev. 09/1970)

Citizenship began in colonial times as an active relation between men working cooperatively to solve municipal problems and participating actively in democratic decision-making, such as in New England town hall meetings. Men met regularly to discuss local affairs and make decisions. These town meetings were described as the "earliest form of American democracy" [31] which was vital since citizen participation in public affairs helped keep democracy "sturdy", according to Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835. [32] A variety of forces changed this relation during the nation's history. Citizenship became less defined by participation in politics and more defined as a legal relation with accompanying rights and privileges. While the realm of civic participation in the public sphere has shrunk, [33] [34] [35] the citizenship franchise has been expanded to include not just propertied white adult men but black men [36] and adult women. [37]

Earlier on, U.S. citizenship was not given to people of Indian or East Asian descent. A. K. Mozumdar was the first person born in the Indian sub-continent to attain U.S. citizenship. A few years earlier, as a result of the 1898 United States v. Wong Kim Ark Supreme Court decision, ethnic Chinese born in the United States became citizens. During World War II, due to Japan's heavy involvement as an aggressor, it was decided to restrict many Japanese citizens from applying for U.S. citizenship, while Chinese citizens encountered no trouble, because of China's alliance with the United States.

The Equal Nationality Act of 1934 was an American law which allowed foreign-born children of American mothers and alien fathers who had entered America before age 18 and lived in America for five years to apply for American citizenship for the first time. [38] It also made the naturalization process quicker for American women's alien husbands. [38] This law equalized expatriation, immigration, naturalization, and repatriation between women and men. [38] [39] However, it was not applied retroactively, and was modified by later laws, such as the Nationality Act of 1940. [38] [40]

Birthright citizenship

U.S. citizenship is usually acquired by birth when a child is born within the territory of the United States. In addition to the 50 U.S. states, this includes the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands. [41] [42] [43] Citizenship, however, was not specified in the original Constitution. In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment specifically defined persons who were either born or naturalized in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction as citizens. [44] [45] All babies born in the United States—except those born to enemy aliens in wartime or the children of foreign diplomats—enjoy U.S. citizenship under the Supreme Court's long-standing interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment. [46] The amendment states: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." [47] There remains dispute as to who is "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States at birth. [48]

By acts of Congress, every person born in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands is a United States citizen by birth. [49] Also, every person born in the former Panama Canal Zone whose father or mother (or both) are or were a citizen is a United States citizen by birth. [50]

Regardless of where they are born, children of U.S. citizens are U.S. citizens in most cases. Children born outside the United States with at least one U.S. citizen parent usually have birthright citizenship by parentage.

A child of unknown parentage found in the US while under the age of 5 is considered a US citizen until proven, before reaching the age of 22, to have not been born in the US. [51]

While persons born in the United States are considered to be citizens and can have passports, children under age eighteen are legally considered to be minors and cannot vote or hold office. Upon the event of their eighteenth birthday, they are considered full citizens but there is no ceremony acknowledging this relation or any correspondence between the new citizen and the government to this effect. Citizenship is assumed to exist, and the relation is assumed to remain viable until death or until it is renounced or dissolved by some other legal process. Secondary schools teach the basics of citizenship and create "informed and responsible citizens" who are "skilled in the arts of effective deliberation and action." [52]

Americans who live in foreign countries and become members of other governments have, in some instances, been stripped of citizenship, although there have been court cases where decisions regarding citizenship have been reversed. [53]

Naturalized citizenship

Acts of Congress provide for acquisition of citizenship by persons born abroad. [54]

Agency in charge

Albert Einstein received his certificate of American citizenship from Judge Phillip Forman. Albert Einstein citizenship NYWTS.jpg
Albert Einstein received his certificate of American citizenship from Judge Phillip Forman.

The agency in charge of admitting new citizens is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, commonly abbreviated as USCIS. [55] It is a bureau of the Department of Homeland Security. It offers web-based services. [56] The agency depends on application fees for revenue; in 2009, with a struggling economy, applications were down sharply, and consequently there was much less revenue to upgrade and streamline services. [56] There was speculation that if the administration of president Barack Obama passed immigration reform measures, then the agency could face a "welcome but overwhelming surge of Americans-in-waiting" and longer processing times for citizenship applications. [56] The USCIS has made efforts to digitize records. [57] A USCIS website says the "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is committed to offering the best possible service to you, our customer" [58] and which says "With our focus on customer service, we offer you a variety of services both before and after you file your case." [58] The website allowed applicants to estimate the length of time required to process specific types of cases, to check application status, and to access a customer guide. [58] The USCIS processes cases in the order they're received. [58]

Pathways to citizenship

Military service is often a key to citizenship; here, a U.S. Navy sailor receives his certificate of United States citizenship from the commander of the USS George Washington. US Navy 060614-N-1045B-044 Aviation Machinist's Mate Elmer Rayos, right, receives his certificate of United States citizenship from USS George Washington (CVN 73) commanding officer.jpg
Military service is often a key to citizenship; here, a U.S. Navy sailor receives his certificate of United States citizenship from the commander of the USS George Washington.

People applying to become citizens must satisfy certain requirements. For example, there have been requirements that applicants have been permanent residents for five years (three if married to a U.S. citizen), be of "good moral character" (meaning no felony convictions), be of "sound mind" in the judgment of immigration officials, have knowledge of the Constitution, and be able to speak and understand English unless they are elderly or disabled. [59] Applicants must also pass a simple citizenship test. [59] Until recently, a test published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service asked questions such as "How many stars are there in our flag?" and "What is the Constitution?" and "Who is the president of the United States today?" [59] At one point, the Government Printing Office sold flashcards for $8.50 to help test takers prepare for the test. [60] In 2006, the government replaced the former trivia test with a ten-question oral test designed to "shun simple historical facts about America that can be recounted in a few words, for more explanation about the principles of American democracy, such as freedom". [55] One reviewer described the new citizenship test as "thoughtful". [56] While some have criticized the new version of the test, officials counter that the new test is a "teachable moment" without making it conceptually more difficult, since the list of possible questions and answers, as before, will be publicly available. [55] Six correct answers constitutes a passing grade. [55] The new test probes for signs that immigrants "understand and share American values". [55] A unique way to become a permanent resident is to apply to the US government DV lottery. This program is a drawing for foreigners to apply for a drawing to become a permanent resident. [61]

Strong demand

According to a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, "citizenship is a very, very valuable commodity". [70] However, one study suggested legal residents eligible for citizenship, but who don't apply, tend to have low incomes (41 percent), do not speak English well (60 percent), or have low levels of education (25 percent). [16] There is strong demand for citizenship based on the number of applications filed. [70] From 1920 to 1940, the number of immigrants to the United States who became citizens numbered about 200,000 each year; there was a spike after World War II, and then the level reduced to about 150,000 per year until resuming to the 200,000 level beginning about 1980. [71] In the mid-1990s to 2009, the levels rose to about 500,000 per year with considerable variation. [71] In 1996, more than one million people became citizens through naturalization. [72] In 1997, there were 1.41 million applications filed; in 2006, 1.38 million. [70] The number of naturalized citizens in the United States rose from 6.5 million in the mid-1990s to 11 million in 2002. [73] By 2003, the pool of immigrants eligible to become naturalized citizens was 8 million, and of these, 2.7 million lived in California. [73] In 2003, the number of new citizens from naturalization was 463,204. [18] In 2007, the number was 702,589. [18] In 2007, 1.38 million people applied for citizenship creating a backlog. [70] In 2008, applications decreased to 525,786. [70]

Naturalization fees were $60 in 1989; $90 in 1991; $95 in 1994; $225 in 1999; $260 in 2002; $320 in 2003; $330 in 2005. [74] In 2007 application fees were increased from $330 to $595 and an additional $80 computerized fingerprinting fee was added. [70] The biometrics fee was increased to $85 in 2010. On December 23, 2016, the application fees were increased again from $595 to $640. The high fees have been criticized as putting up one more wall to citizenship. [55] Increases in fees for citizenship have drawn criticism. [75] Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and former Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner, doubted that fee increases deter citizenship-seekers. [70] In 2009, the number of immigrants applying for citizenship plunged 62 percent; reasons cited were the slowing economy and the cost of naturalization. [70]

Citizenship ceremonies

December 21, 1973 Congress Hall Program and Welcome Letter from Pres. Richard Nixon Naturalization-Ceremonies-Philadelphia-Dec-21-1973.pdf
December 21, 1973 Congress Hall Program and Welcome Letter from Pres. Richard Nixon

The citizenship process has been described as a ritual that is meaningful for many immigrants. [55] Many new citizens are sworn in during Independence Day ceremonies. [18] Most citizenship ceremonies take place at offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, one swearing-in ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in 2008. The judge who chose this venue explained: "I did it to honor our country's warriors and to give the new citizens a sense for what makes this country great." [76] According to federal law, citizenship applicants who are also changing their names must appear before a federal judge. [76]

Honorary citizenship

Polish Count Kazimierz Pulaski was awarded with the honorary distinction of citizen 230 years after he fought and died in the Revolutionary War. Obraz Pulaski.JPG
Polish Count Kazimierz Pulaski was awarded with the honorary distinction of citizen 230 years after he fought and died in the Revolutionary War.

The title of "Honorary Citizen of the United States" has been granted eight times by an act of Congress or by a proclamation issued by the president pursuant to authorization granted by Congress. The eight individuals are Sir Winston Churchill, Raoul Wallenberg, William Penn, Hannah Callowhill Penn, Mother Teresa, the Marquis de Lafayette, Casimir Pulaski, and Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Viscount of Galveston and Count of Gálvez.

Sometimes, the government awarded non-citizen immigrants who died fighting for American forces with the posthumous title of U.S. citizen, but this is not considered honorary citizenship. [64] In June 2003, Congress approved legislation to help families of fallen non-citizen soldiers. [64]

Corporate citizenship

There is a sense in which corporations can be considered "citizens". Since corporations are considered persons in the eyes of the law, it is possible to think of corporations as being like citizens. For example, the airline Virgin America asked the United States Department of Transportation to be treated as an American air carrier. [77] The advantage of "citizenship" is having the protection and support of the United States government when jockeying with foreign governments for access to air routes and overseas airports. [77] Alaska Airlines, a competitor of Virgin America, asked for a review of the situation; according to U.S. law, "foreign ownership in a U.S. air carrier is limited to 25% of the voting interest in the carrier," but executives at Virgin America insisted the airline met this requirement. [77]

For the purposes of diversity jurisdiction in the United States civil procedure, corporate citizenship is determined by the principal place of business of the corporation. There is some degree of disagreement among legal authorities as to how exactly this may be determined.[ citation needed ]

Another sense of "corporate citizenship" is a way to show support for causes such as social issues and the environment and, indirectly, gain a kind of "reputational advantage". [78]

Distinction between citizenship and nationality

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA) made a minor distinction between U.S. citizenship and U.S. nationality. [79] Citizenship comprises a larger set of privileges and rights for those persons that are U.S. citizens which is not afforded to individuals that are only U.S. nationals by virtue of their rights under the INA. [80] It is well-established that all U.S. citizens are U.S. nationals but not all U.S. nationals are U.S. citizens. [79]

The Naturalization Act of 1790 (1  Stat.   103) provided the first rules to be followed by the United States in the granting of national citizenship after the ratification of the Constitution. [81] A number of other Acts and statutes followed the Act of 1790 that expanded or addressed specific situations but it was not until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (Pub.L.   82–414 , 66  Stat.   163 , enacted June 27, 1952), codified under Title 8 of the United States Code (8 U.S.C. ch. 12), that the variety of statutes governing citizenship law were organized within one single body of text. [82] The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 set forth the legal requirements for the acquisition of American nationality. The Fourteenth Amendment (1868) addressed citizenship rights. The United States nationality law, despite its "nationality" title, comprises the statutes that embody the law regarding both American citizenship and American nationality.

The United States government takes the position that unincorporated territories of the United States are not "in the United States" for purposes of the Citizenship Clause, and thus individuals born in those territories are only US citizens at birth if Congress has passed a citizenship statute in regards to that territory. Thus, people born in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands have US citizenship at birth, while people born in the Northern Mariana Islands have US citizenship at birth but may elect to give up US citizenship while retaining US nationality at the age of 18. [83] Meanwhile, per 8 U.S.C.   § 1408 , people born in American Samoa are US nationals but not US citizens at birth, and must apply for naturalization if they wish to become US citizens, which requires them to pay a $680 fee (as of February 11, 2014), pass a good moral character assessment, be fingerprinted and pass an English and civics examination. [84] The nationality status of a person born in an unincorporated U.S. Minor Outlying Island is not specifically mentioned by law, but under international law and Supreme Court dicta, they are also regarded as non-citizen nationals of the United States. [85]

The US government position with regards to American Samoa began to be challenged in court in the 2010s, and has resulted in conflicting rulings: a 2016 ruling by the DC Circuit Court upheld the US government's position interpretation that American Samoa is not "in the United States" for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment and thus American Samoans are nationals but not citizens at birth, [86] while a 2019 ruling by the Utah District Court held the contrary and ruled that the American Samoan plaintiffs were US citizens at birth (the latter ruling was stayed and will be appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court, which could result in a circuit split were it to be upheld). [87] [88] [89]

Non-citizen nationals of the United States may reside and work in the United States without restrictions, and may apply for U.S. citizenship under the same rules as permanent U.S. residents. Both of these groups are not allowed to vote in federal or state elections, although there is no constitutional prohibition against their doing so. Most nationals of the United States statutorily transmit nationality to children born outside the United States. [90] [91]

The U.S. passport issued to noncitizen nationals of the United States contains the endorsement code 9 which states: "The bearer is a United States national and not a United States citizen" on the annotations page. [92]


The issue of citizenship naturalization is a highly contentious matter in US politics, particularly regarding illegal immigrants. Candidates in the 2008 presidential election, such as Rudolph Giuliani, tried to "carve out a middle ground" on the issue of illegal immigration, but rivals such as John McCain advocated legislation requiring illegal immigrants to first leave the country before being eligible to apply as citizens. [93] Some measures to require proof of citizenship upon registering to vote have met with controversy. [94]

Controversy can arise when citizenship affects political issues. Whether to include questions about current citizenship status in the United States Census questions has been debated in the Senate. [59] [95] Census data affects state electoral clout; it also affects budgetary allocations. [95] Including non-citizens in Census counts also shifts political power to states that have large numbers of non-citizens due to the fact that reapportionment of congressional seats is based on Census data, and including non-citizens in the census is mandated by the United States Constitution. [96]

There have been controversies based on speculation about which way newly naturalized citizens are likely to vote. Since immigrants from many countries have been presumed to vote Democratic if naturalized, there have been efforts by Democratic administrations to streamline citizenship applications before elections to increase turnout; Republicans, in contrast, have exerted pressure to slow down the process. [97] In 1997, there were efforts to strip the citizenship of 5,000 newly approved immigrants who, it was thought, had been "wrongly naturalized"; a legal effort to do this presented enormous challenges. [97] An examination by the Immigration and Naturalization Service of 1.1 million people who were granted citizenship from September 1995 to September 1996 found 4,946 cases in which a criminal arrest should have disqualified an applicant or in which an applicant lied about his or her criminal history. [97] Before the 2008 election, there was controversy about the speed of the USCIS in processing applications; one report suggested that the agency would complete 930,000 applications in time for the newly processed citizens to vote in the November 2008 election. [98] Foreign-born naturalized citizens tend to vote at the same rates as natives. For example, in the state of New Jersey in the 2008 election, the foreign born represented 20.1% of the state's population of 8,754,560; of these, 636,000 were eighteen or older and hence eligible to vote; of eligible voters, 396,000 actually voted, which was about 62%. [99] So foreign-born citizens vote in roughly the same proportion (62%) as native citizens (67%). [99]

There has been controversy about the agency in charge of citizenship. The USCIS has been criticized as being a "notoriously surly, inattentive bureaucracy" with long backlogs in which "would-be citizens spent years waiting for paperwork". [56] Rules made by Congress and the federal government regarding citizenship are highly technical and often confusing, and the agency is forced to cope with enforcement within a complex regulatory milieu. There have been instances in which applicants for citizenship have been deported on technicalities. [100] One Pennsylvania doctor and his wife, both from the Philippines, who applied for citizenship, and one Mr. Darnell from Canada who was married to an American with two children from this marriage, ran afoul of legal technicalities and faced deportation. [100] The New York Times reported that "Mr. Darnell discovered that a 10-year-old conviction for domestic violence involving a former girlfriend, even though it had been reduced to a misdemeanor and erased from his public record, made him ineligible to become a citizen—or even to continue living in the United States." [100] Overworked federal examiners under pressure to make "quick decisions" as well as "weed out security risks" have been described as preferring "to err on the side of rejection". [100] In 2000, 399,670 applications were denied (about 13 of all applications); in 2007, 89,683 applications for naturalization were denied, about 12% of those presented. [100]

Generally, eligibility for citizenship is denied for the millions of people living in the United States illegally, although from time to time, there have been amnesties. In 2006, there were mass protests numbering hundreds of thousands of people throughout the US demanding U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants. [101] Many carried banners which read "We Have A Dream Too". [101] One estimate is that there were 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. in 2006. [101] Many American high school students have citizenship issues. [102] In 2008, it was estimated that there were 65,000 illegal immigrant students. [102] The number was less clear for post-secondary education.[ citation needed ] A 1982 Supreme Court decision entitled illegal immigrants to free education from kindergarten through high school. [102] Undocumented immigrants who get arrested face difficulties in the courtroom as they have no constitutional right to challenge the outcome of their deportation hearings. [103] In 2009, writer Tom Barry of the Boston Review criticized the crackdown against illegal immigrants since it "flooded the federal courts with nonviolent offenders, besieged poor communities, and dramatically increased the U.S. prison population, while doing little to solve the problem itself". [104] Barry criticized the United States' high incarceration rate as being "fives times greater than the average rate in the rest of the world". [104] Virginia senator Jim Webb agreed that "we are doing something dramatically wrong in our criminal justice system". [104]

Relinquishment of citizenship

Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States, issued by the United States Embassy in Asuncion, Paraguay. According to the document, the subject had acquired no other nationality at the time of issuance; hence leaving him stateless. Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States.jpg
Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States, issued by the United States Embassy in Asunción, Paraguay. According to the document, the subject had acquired no other nationality at the time of issuance; hence leaving him stateless.

U.S. citizens can relinquish their citizenship, which involves abandoning the right to reside in the United States and all the other rights and responsibilities of citizenship. [105] "Relinquishment" is the legal term covering all seven different potentially-expatriating acts (ways of giving up citizenship) under 8 U.S.C.   § 1481(a) . "Renunciation" refers to two of those acts: swearing an oath of renunciation before a U.S. diplomatic or consular officer abroad, or before an official designated by the attorney general within the United States during a state of war. [106] Out of an estimated three to six million U.S. citizens residing abroad, between five and six thousand relinquished citizenship each year in 2015 and 2016. [107] U.S. nationality law treats people who performs potentially-expatriating acts with intent to give up U.S. citizenship as ceasing to be U.S. citizens from the moment of the act, but U.S. tax law since 2004 treats such individuals as though they remain U.S. citizens until they notify the State Department and apply for a Certificate of Loss of Nationality (CLN). [108]

Renunciation requires an oath to be sworn before a State Department officer and thus involves in-person attendance at an embassy or consulate, but applicants for CLNs on the basis of other potentially-expatriating acts must attend an in-person interview as well. During the interview, a State Department official assesses whether the person acted voluntarily, intended to abandon all rights of U.S. citizenship, and understands the consequences of their actions. The State Department strongly recommends that Americans intending to relinquish citizenship have another citizenship, but will permit Americans to make themselves stateless if they understand the consequences. [106] There is a $2,350 administrative fee for the process. [109] In addition, an expatriation tax is imposed on some individuals relinquishing citizenship, but payment of the tax is not a legal prerequisite for relinquishing citizenship; rather, the tax and its associated forms are due on the normal tax due date of the year following relinquishment of citizenship. [110] State Department officials do not seek to obtain any tax information from the interviewee, and instruct the interviewee to contact the IRS directly with any questions about taxes. [111]

Revocation of citizenship

Citizenship can be revoked under certain circumstances. [112] For instance, if held that a naturalized person has concealed material evidence, wilfully misrepresented themselves, not disclosed being a member of certain political parties like the Communist Party of America or the Nazi party, etc. then they may have their naturalization revoked.

A citizen may also lose US citizenship when they perform such expatriating acts like seeking office in a foreign state. [113] Generally, the higher office and more important role a citizen holds in a foreign government, the more at risk the US citizenship will be: "Serving as a foreign head of state/government or foreign minister may affect the level of immunity from U.S. jurisdiction that a dual national may be afforded. All such cases should be referred to the Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Consular Affairs." [113]

From September 22, 1922 to the passage of Nationality Act of 1940, a woman holding US citizenship could lose it simply by marriage to an alien or certain aliens ineligible for citizenship [114] [115]

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 of 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 obey and uphold 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.

Immigration and Naturalization Service Former immigration service of the United States

The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor from 1933 to 1940 and the U.S. Department of Justice from 1940 to 2003.

Green card Lawful permanent residency in the USA

A green card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently. Individuals with green cards are known as Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) or green card holders. 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.

The H-1B is a visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H) that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. A specialty occupation requires the application of specialized knowledge and a bachelor's degree or the equivalent of work experience. The duration of stay is three years, extendable to six years; after which the visa holder may need to reapply. Laws limit the number of H-1B visas that are issued each year: 180,440 new and initial H-1B visas were issued in 2017. Employers must generally withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from the wages paid to employees in H-1B status.

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 1, 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.

Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 American immigration law

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, also known as the McCarran–Walter Act, codified under Title 8 of the United States Code, governs immigration to and citizenship in the United States. It has been in effect since June 27, 1952. Before this Act, a variety of statutes governed immigration law but were not organized within one body of text.

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).

A K-1 visa is a visa issued to the fiancé or fiancée of a United States citizen to enter the United States. A K-1 visa requires a foreigner to marry his or her U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days of entry, or depart the United States. Once the couple marries, the foreign citizen can adjust status to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Although a K-1 visa is legally classified as a non-immigrant visa, it usually leads to important immigration benefits and is therefore often processed by the Immigrant Visa section of United States embassies and consulates worldwide.

TN status or TN visa is a special non-immigrant classification in the United States that offers expedited work authorization to a citizen of Canada or a national of Mexico, created as a result of provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement that mandate simplified entry and employment permission for certain professionals from each of the three NAFTA member states in the other member states.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that administers the country's naturalization and immigration system. It is a successor to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which was dissolved by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and replaced by three components within the DHS: USCIS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The Naturalization Act of 1906 was an act of the United States Congress signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt that revised the Naturalization Act of 1870 and required immigrants to learn English in order to become naturalized citizens. The bill was passed on June 29, 1906, and took effect September 27, 1906. It was repealed and replaced by the Nationality Act of 1940. It was modified by the Immigration Act of 1990.

Visa policy of the United States Policy on permits required to enter the United States and its unincorporated territories

The visa policy of the United States deals with the requirements which a foreign national wishing to enter the United States must meet to obtain a visa, which is a permit to travel to, enter, and remain in the United States. Visitors to the United States must obtain a visa from one of the United States diplomatic missions unless they come from one of the visa-exempt countries or Visa Waiver Program countries. The same rules apply to Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands while different rules apply to Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.

Birthright citizenship in the United States Persons acquisition of United States citizenship by virtue of the circumstances of birth

Birthright citizenship in the United States is acquired automatically by virtue of a person’s birth within United States territory or because one or both of his or her parents is a US citizen. It contrasts with citizenship acquired in other ways, for example by naturalization. Pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), U.S. citizenship is automatically granted to any person born within and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. This includes the territories of Puerto Rico, the Marianas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Birthright citizenship also applies to children born elsewhere in the world to U.S. citizens, known as jus sanguinis.

Citizenship Clause

The Citizenship Clause is the first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was adopted on July 9, 1868, which states:

This is the history of laws concerning immigration and naturalization in the United States. Immigration is distinct from naturalization. For the first century of the United States' history, immigration to the country was unrestricted. Anyone could move into the United States, start a new life, pay taxes, participate in military service and conduct business. However, while the United States had an "open-borders" policy for the first century of its existence, it had very clear naturalization laws from the first years of its existence. Anyone who wanted to vote or hold elective office had to be naturalized. That is, anyone could immigrate in, but only those who went through the naturalization process and became a citizen could vote or hold elective office.

The Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security under the Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans.

Birthright generation is a term used by immigrant advocates to identify U.S. born citizens; citizens are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which grants American citizenship to all babies born on American soil whether the child is born to one or both undocumented parents. Birthright citizenship may be also conferred either by jus soli or jus sanguinis. Under the United States Law, any person born within the U.S. including the territories of: Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands, and subject to its jurisdiction is automatically granted US citizenship. The alternative term is Anchor Baby; a term used by immigration reductionists in the United States to identify a child born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants. It is generally used as a reference to the supposed role of the child, who as a US citizen through the legal principle of jus soli, may facilitate immigration for relatives through family reunification. Family reunification, or family-based immigration, in the USA is a lengthy process and limited to categories prescribed by provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. This misconception has led those that oppose citizenship rights for children of immigrants, that newborns would facilitate residency and citizenship rights for their parents. However, an American child cannot claim a parent until the age of 21.

Multiple citizenship, dual citizenship, multiple nationality or dual nationality, is a person's citizenship status, in which a person is concurrently regarded as a citizen of more than one country under the laws of those countries. Conceptually, citizenship is focused on the internal political life of the country and nationality is a matter of international dealings. There is no international convention which determines the nationality or citizenship status of a person. This is defined exclusively by national laws, which can vary and conflict with each other. Multiple citizenship arises because different countries use different, and not necessarily mutually exclusive, criteria for citizenship. Colloquially, people may "hold" multiple citizenship but, technically, each nation makes a claim that a particular person is considered its national.

Renunciation Act of 1944 USA citizenship law

The Renunciation Act of 1944 was an act of the 78th Congress regarding the renunciation of United States citizenship. Prior to the law's passage, it was not possible to lose U.S. citizenship while in U.S. territory except by conviction for treason; the Renunciation Act allowed people physically present in the U.S. to renounce citizenship when the country was in a state of war by making an application to the Attorney General. The intention of the 1944 Act was to encourage Japanese American internees to renounce citizenship so that they could be deported to Japan.

Relinquishment of United States nationality Legal procedure to relinquish American citizenship

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. Relinquishment is distinct from denaturalization, which in U.S. law refers solely to cancellation of illegally procured naturalization.


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  24. "Title 8 of Code of Federal Regulations (8 CFR) \ 8 CFR Part 1337- Oath of allegiance \ § 1337.1 Oath of allegiance". U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. Retrieved September 16, 2011. I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; ...
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  36. Note: after the Emancipation Proclamation during the American Civil War, blacks became technically enfranchised as citizens although segregation and discrimination did not begin to break down until the twentieth century
  37. Note: women achieved the right to vote in 1919 after a constitutional amendment.
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  48. See Birthright citizenship in the United States#Current controversy.
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  88. "Fitisemanu et al v. United States of America et al". United States District Court for the District of Utah . via Justia. December 12, 2019.
  89. "American Samoans' citizenship status still in limbo after judge issues stay". NPR. December 13, 2019. Retrieved December 14, 2019.
  90. 8 U.S.C.   § 1408(4) ("Unless otherwise provided in section 1401 of this title, the following shall be nationals, but not citizens, of the United States at birth: ... (4) A person born outside the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a national, but not a citizen, of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than seven years in any continuous period of ten years—(A) during which the national parent was not outside the United States or its outlying possessions for a continuous period of more than one year, and (B) at least five years of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years.") (emphasis added); Alabama v. Bozeman , 533 U.S. 146, 153 (2001) ("The word 'shall' is ordinarily the language of command.") (internal quotation marks omitted).
  91. 8 FAM 302.8 Acquisition by Birth Abroad to Non-Citizen U.S. National Parent(s). Foreign Affairs Manual. U.S. Department of State.
  92. 8 FAM 505.2 Passport Endorsements 8 FAM 505.2-2 List of Current endorsements. U.S. Department of State. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  93. "Giuliani Sidesteps Whether Illegals Should Get Citizenship Without First Leaving U.S." ABC News. March 23, 2007. Retrieved November 19, 2009. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani sidestepped whether he supports giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship without first requiring them to leave the country while campaigning Thursday in the Washington, D.C. area.
  94. Ian Urbina (May 12, 2008). "Voter ID Battle Shifts to Proof of Citizenship". The New York Times. Retrieved November 19, 2009. The battle over voting rights will expand this week as lawmakers in Missouri are expected to support a proposed constitutional amendment to enable election officials to require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote.
  95. 1 2 Ed O'Keefe (November 19, 2009). "Eye Opener: Citizenship and the Census". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 19, 2009. Happy Friday! Should the 2010 Census account for a person's citizenship status? At least two Republican lawmakers think so, arguing the forthcoming Congressional reapportionment should not be swayed by illegal immigrants, who whose numbers will give more seats to certain states.
  96. Census Nonsense, Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2010; see also, Steve Camarota, Remaking the Political Landscape: The Impact of Illegal and Legal Immigration on Congressional Apportionment Center for Immigration Studies, October 2003.
  97. 1 2 3 Eric Schmitt (May 24, 1997). "U.S. Is Seeking To Strip 5,000 Of Citizenship". The New York Times. Retrieved November 19, 2009. The Clinton Administration will seek to strip the citizenship of nearly 5,000 immigrants who were wrongly naturalized in an immigration drive last year, Federal officials said today.
  98. Julia Preston (March 15, 2008). "Goal Set for Reducing Backlog on Citizenship Applications". The New York Times. Retrieved November 19, 2009. Immigration officials said on Friday that they expected to complete about 930,000 citizenship applications in the fiscal year ending September 30, reducing a huge backlog in a time frame that would allow many new citizens to register to vote in the November elections.
  99. 1 2 "Role of Foreign-born Voters in Election". mpI Migration Policy Institute. November 20, 2009. Retrieved November 20, 2009. Note: click on "New Jersey" MPI election profiles for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, examining voter registration by nativity, providing breakdowns for foreign-born citizens as a share of total state population, and detailing their turnout in the 2004 general election, and by ethnicity.
  100. 1 2 3 4 5 Julia Preston (April 12, 2008). "Perfectly Legal Immigrants, Until They Applied for Citizenship". The New York Times. Retrieved November 19, 2009. Dr. Pedro Servano always believed that his journey from his native Philippines to the life of a community doctor in Pennsylvania would lead to American citizenship.
  101. 1 2 3 Laura Parker (April 11, 2006). "Immigrants, backers demand citizenship". USA Today. Retrieved November 19, 2009. Hundreds of thousands of people demanding U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants took to the streets in dozens of cities from New York to San Diego on Monday in some of the most widespread demonstrations since the mass protests began around the country last month.
  102. 1 2 3 Eddy Ramírez (August 7, 2008). "Should Colleges Enroll Illegal Immigrants?". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved November 19, 2009. A native of Poland, she has resided in the United States unlawfully for most of her 21 years. Unless federal immigration laws change and allow undocumented students like her to become legal residents, she won't be able to put her degree to use and work as an American engineer.
  103. Dan Slater (January 9, 2009). "Mukasey Limits Ineffective Assistance Challenge for Aliens". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 16, 2009. On Wednesday, Michael Mukasey ruled that aliens have no constitutional right to challenge the outcome of their deportation hearings based on their lawyers' mistakes.
  104. 1 2 3 Tom Barry (November 1, 2009). "A Death in Texas—Profits, poverty, and immigration converge". Boston Review. Retrieved December 16, 2009. Although the term "criminal aliens" has no precise definition, its broadening use reflects a trend in dealing with immigrants. With the post-9/11 creation of DHS and its two agencies—Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—a wide sector of aliens increasingly became the focus of joint efforts by immigration and law enforcement officers.
  105. "7 FAM 1220: Developing a Loss-of-Nationality Case". Foreign Affairs Manual . Department of State. September 19, 2014. Retrieved June 17, 2017.
  106. 1 2 "7 FAM 1210: Loss and Restoration of U.S. Citizenship". Foreign Affairs Manual. Department of State. December 19, 2014. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  107. Lee, Young Ran (2017). "Considering 'Citizenship Taxation': In Defense of FATCA". Florida Tax Review. 20: 346–347. SSRN   2972248 .CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  108. Berg, Roy (November 30, 2014). FATCA in Canada: The 'Cure' for a U.S. Place of Birth (PDF). 66th Annual Canadian Tax Foundation Annual Conference. Toronto. p. 20. Retrieved April 16, 2018.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  109. Spiro, Peter (2017). "Citizenship Overreach". Michigan Journal of International Law. 38 (2): 169. SSRN   2956020 .CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  110. Dentino, William L.; Manolakas, Christine (2012). "The Exit Tax: A Move in the Right Direction". William & Mary Business Law Review. 3 (2): 350. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  111. "7 FAM 1240: Interagency Coordination and Reporting Requirements". Foreign Affairs Manual. Department of State. November 12, 2015. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
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