Honorary citizen of the United States

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Winston Churchill's identification document as an honorary citizen of the United States, provided as a gift from President John F. Kennedy. Though similar in appearance, it could not function as a passport.[1]

A person of exceptional merit, generally a non-United States citizen, may be declared an honorary citizen of the United States by an Act of Congress or by a proclamation issued by the President of the United States, pursuant to authorization granted by Congress.

Eight people have been so honored, six posthumously, and two, Sir Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa, during their lifetimes.


# Name Image Award date Information
1 Sir Winston Churchill Sir Winston S Churchill.jpg 1963 Prime Minister of the United Kingdom[2][3]
2 Raoul Wallenberg Raoul Wallenberg.jpg 1981
Swedish diplomat who rescued Jews from the Holocaust[4]
3 William Penn William Penn.png 1984
Founder of the Province of Pennsylvania[5]
4 Hannah Callowhill Penn Hannah-Penn-01.jpg 1984
Second wife of William Penn, administrator of the Province of Pennsylvania[5]
5 Mother Teresa MotherTeresa 094.jpg 1996 Catholic nun of Albanian ethnicity and Indian citizenship, who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta[6]
6 Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette Gilbert du Motier Marquis de Lafayette.PNG 2002
A Frenchman who was an officer in the American Revolutionary War
7 Casimir Pulaski Kazimierz Pułaski.PNG 2009
Polish military officer who fought on the side of the American colonists against the British in the American Revolutionary War; member of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth nobility, politician who has been called "The Father of the American Cavalry"[7][8][9][10]
8 Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Viscount of Galveston and Count of Gálvez BernardoGálvez.png 2014
A Spaniard who was a hero of the American Revolutionary War who risked his life for the freedom of the United States people and provided supplies, intelligence, and strong military support to the war effort, who was wounded during the Siege of Pensacola, demonstrating bravery that forever endeared him to the United States soldiers.[11] The King of Spain Carlos III granted him the right to the motto YO SOLO (I ALONE) for his coat of arms

For Lafayette and Mother Teresa, the honor was proclaimed directly by an Act of Congress. In the other cases, an Act of Congress was passed authorizing the President to grant honorary citizenship by proclamation.

Legal issues[edit]

What rights and privileges honorary citizenship bestows, if any, is unclear. According to State Department documents, it does not grant eligibility for United States passports.[1]

Public Law 88-6 (1963) granted honorary citizenship to Winston Churchill.

In the case of Lafayette, he did not receive honorary citizenship of the United States until 2002, but did become a natural-born citizen during his lifetime. On 28 December 1784, the Maryland General Assembly passed a resolution stating that Lafayette and his male heirs "forever shall be...natural born Citizens" of the state.[12] This made him a natural-born citizen of the United States under the Articles of Confederation and as defined in Section 1 of Article Two of the United States Constitution.[13][14][15][2] Lafayette boasted in 1792 that he had become an American citizen before the French Revolution created the concept of French citizenship.[16] In 1803, President Jefferson wrote him he would have offered to make him Governor of Louisiana, had he been "on the spot".[17] In 1932, descendant René de Chambrun established his American citizenship based on the Maryland resolution,[18][19] although he was probably ineligible as the inherited citizenship was likely only intended for direct descendants who were heir to Lafayette's estate and title.[20]

Honorary citizenship should not be confused with citizenship or permanent residency bestowed by a private bill. Private bills are, on rare occasions, used to provide relief to individuals, often in immigration cases, and are also passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. One such statute, granting Elián González U.S. citizenship, was suggested in 1999, but was never enacted.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "7 FAM 1170: Honorary Citizenship". Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 7 – Consular Affairs. U.S. Department of State. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Plumpton, John (Summer 1988). "A Son of America Though a Subject of Britain". Finest Hour (The Churchill Centre) (60). 
  3. ^ "Winston Churchill" (PDF). Pub.L. 86-6. U.S. Senate. 9 April 1963. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  4. ^ "Raoul Wallenberg" (PDF). Pub.L. 97-54, 95 Stat. 971. U.S. Senate. 5 October 1981. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "William Penn and Hannah Callowhill Penn" (PDF). Pub.L. 98-516, 98 Stat. 2423. U.S. Senate. 19 October 1984. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  6. ^ H.J. Res. 191 (Pub.L. 104–218, 110 Stat. 3021, enacted October 1, 1996)
  7. ^ "Casimir Pulaski Day". Office of Civil Rights and Diversity at Eastern Illinois University. 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  8. ^ Richmond, Yale (1995). From Da to Yes: Understanding the East Europeans. Yarmouth, Me: Intercultural Press. p. 72. ISBN 1-877864-30-7. 
  9. ^ "Citizenship for Polish Hero of American Revolution". The New York Times. Associated Press. 7 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-19. Gen. Casimir Pulaski finally became an American citizen, 230 years after he died fighting in the Revolutionary War. 
  10. ^ H.J. Res. 26 (S.J. Res. 12) (Pub.L. 111–94, 123 Stat. 2999, enacted November 6, 2009)
  11. ^ Galvez, Bernardo. "H.J. Res. 105 Engrossed in House (EH)". US Congress. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  12. ^ Lafayette again became an honorary citizen of Maryland in 1823, as well as of Connecticut the same year.
  13. ^ Speare, Morris Edmund (7 September 1919). "Lafayette, Citizen of America". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  14. ^ Folliard, Edward T. (25 May 1973). "JFK Slipped on Historical Data In Churchill Tribute". Sarasota Journal. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  15. ^ Cornell, Douglas B. (10 April 1963). "Churchill Acceptance 'Honors Us Far More'". The Sumter Daily Item. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  16. ^ "Lafayette: Citizen of Two Worlds". Lafayette: Citizen of Two Worlds. Cornell University Library. 2006. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  17. ^ "Lafayette’s Triumphal Tour: America, 1824-1825". Lafayette: Citizen of Two Worlds. Cornell University Library. 2006. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  18. ^ "Letters". TIME. 2 December 1940. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  19. ^ Rogister, John (17 August 2002). "Obituaries: René de Chambrun". The Independent. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  20. ^ Gottschalk, Louis Reichenthal (1950). Lafayette Between the American and the French Revolution (1783-1789). University of Chicago Press. pp. 435–436. 
  21. ^ Bash, Dana (23 December 1999). "Helms says he aims to offer U.S. citizenship to Elian Gonzalez". CNN. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 

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