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Honorary citizenship is a status bestowed by a country on a foreign individual whom it considers to be especially admirable or otherwise worthy of the distinction.
Historically, many states limited citizenship to only a proportion of their population, thereby creating a citizen class with political rights superior to other sections of the population, but equal with each other. The classical example of a limited citizenry was Athens where slaves, women, and resident foreigners (called metics) were excluded from political rights. The Roman Republic forms another example (see Roman citizenship).
Honorary Canadian citizenship requires the unanimous approval of Parliament. The only people to ever receive honorary Canadian citizenship are Raoul Wallenberg posthumously in 1985, Nelson Mandela in 2001, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso in 2006, Aung San Suu Kyi in 2007 Prince Karim Aga Khan in 2009 and Malala Yousafzai in 2013.
In Germany honorary citizenship is awarded by cities, towns and sometimes federal states. The honorary citizenship ends with the death of the honoured, or, in exceptional cases, when it is taken away by the council or parliament of the city, town, or state. In the case of war criminals, all such honours were taken away by "Article VIII, section II, letter i of the directive 38 of the Allied Control Council for Germany" on October 12, 1946. In some cases, honorary citizenship was taken away from members of the former GDR regime, e.g. Erich Honecker, after the collapse of the GDR in 1989/90.
- Berlin awarded Lucius D. Clay 1962 for his role as military governor and for creating the Berlin airlift and Mikhail Gorbachev for his change in world politics that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany.
- Che Guevara was made an honorary citizen of Cuba by Fidel Castro for his part in the Cuban Revolution. Embarking on fomenting revolutions in other countries, Che Guevara, in his farewell letter to Fidel, gave up all his official ties to Cuba, including citizenship.
- In 2002 South Korea awarded honorary citizenship to Dutch football (soccer) coach Guus Hiddink who successfully and unexpectedly took the national team to the semi-finals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Honorary citizenship was also awarded to Hines Ward, a black Korean American football player, in 2006 for his efforts to minimize discrimination in Korea against half-Koreans.
- In 2005, actress Angelina Jolie received an honorary Cambodian citizenship in 2005 for her humanitarian efforts
- In March 2007, cricketers Matthew Hayden and Herschelle Gibbs were awarded honorary citizenship of St. Kitts and Nevis, following their record-breaking innings in the 2007 Cricket World Cup
- In April 2013, Raoul Wallenberg became the first person to be granted an honorary Australian citizenship.
- In August 2013, French actor Gérard Depardieu received an honorary citizenship by Belgium.
- In October 2013, Argentinian football coach José Pekerman received the Colombian citizenship after he qualified Colombia to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the first World Cup for the country after a 16 year hiatus.
- Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 Section 12
- Berliner Ehrenbürger: Lucius Dubignon Clay on the website of the Abgeordnetenhaus of Berlin.
- Berliner Ehrenbürger: Michael Sergejewitsch Gorbatschow on the website of the Abgeordnetenhaus of Berlin.
- "Che's Farewell Letter". History of Cuba (historyofcuba.com). 1965. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
- "Holocaust hero named Australia's first honorary citizen", The Australian, 15 April 2013; Retrieved 6 May 2013
- Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Media Advisory: Governor-General to confer Honorary Australian Citizenship, 1 May 2013; Retrieved 6 May 2013
- Gerard Depardieu throws house-warming barbecue in Belgium. BBC News. Retrieved 24 August 2013
- "Pékerman podrá tener la nacionalidad colombiana cuando quiera: Santos", Caracol Radio, 11 October 2013; Retrieved 13 October 2013