Citizenship of the United States

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United States nationality confers the right to acquire a United States passport.[1] 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. It serves as a foundation of fundamental rights derived from and protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, such as freedom of expression, due process, the rights to vote, to 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 all federal elections, for example, 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 United States 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 Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution 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.

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, (2) eligibility for some state-provided benefits such as higher education, and (3) eligibility for state political posts such as United States senator.

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

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

Rights, duties, and benefits[edit]

Rights[edit]

Picture of four soldiers outdoors in front of a fence; one soldier points to the left
The United States military has been an all-volunteer force since the end of the Vietnam War, but male United States citizens and non-citizens are still required to register for the military draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
  • Freedom to reside and work. United States citizens have the right to reside and work in the United States. Certain non-citizens, such as lawful permanent residents, have similar rights; however, non-citizens, unlike citizens, may have the right taken away. For example, they may be deported if convicted of a serious crime.[12]
  • Freedom to enter and leave the United States. United States citizens have the right to enter and leave the United States freely. Certain non-citizens, such as permanent residents, have similar rights. Unlike permanent residents, United States citizens do not have an obligation to maintain residence in the United States – they can leave for any length of time and return freely at any time.[citation needed]
  • Voting for federal office in all fifty states and the District of Columbia is restricted to citizens only. States are not required to extend the franchise to all citizens: for example, several states bar citizen felons from voting, even after they have completed any custodial sentence. The United States Constitution bars states from restricting citizens from voting on grounds of race, color, previous condition of servitude, sex, failure to pay any tax, or age (for citizens who are at least eighteen years old). Historically, many states and local jurisdictions have allowed non-citizens to vote; however, today this is limited to local elections in very few places. Citizens are not compelled to vote.
  • Right to apply for federal employment. Many federal government jobs require applicants to have United States citizenship. United States citizens can apply for federal employment within a government agency or department.[13]

Duties[edit]

Picture of a jury summons
United States citizens may be summoned to serve on a jury.
picture of a 1040 Federal tax form with blue and white shading
Citizens are required to file United States taxes even if they do not live in the United States.
  • Jury duty is only imposed upon citizens. Jury duty may be considered the "sole differential obligation" between non-citizens and citizens; the federal and state courts "uniformly exclude non-citizens from jury pools today, and with the exception of a few states in the past, this has always been the case".[14]
  • Taxes. In the United States today, everyone except those whose income is derived from tax-exempt revenue (Subchapter N, Section 861 of the U.S. Tax Code) is required to file a federal income tax return. American citizens are subject to federal income tax on worldwide income regardless of their country of residence.[15]
  • Census. A response to the decennial census is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution and by Title 13 of the United States Code of all residents. A response to the American Community Survey is also mandated by Title 13, U.S. Code, Sections 141, 193, and 221, as changed by Title 18.

Benefits[edit]

  • Consular protection outside the United States. While traveling abroad, if a person is arrested or detained by foreign authorities, the person can request to speak to somebody from the United States Embassy or Consulate. Consular officials can provide resources for Americans incarcerated abroad, such as a list of local attorneys who speak English. The United States government may even intervene on the person's behalf.[16] Non-citizen United States nationals also have this benefit.
  • Increased ability to sponsor relatives living abroad.[16] Several types of immigrant visas require that the person requesting the visa be directly related to a United States citizen. Having United States citizenship facilitates the granting of IR and F visas to family members.
  • Ability to invest in United States real property without triggering FIRPTA. Perhaps the only quantifiable economic benefit of United States citizenship, citizens are not subject to additional withholding tax on income and capital gains derived from United States real estate under the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA).[citation needed]
  • Transmission of United States citizenship to children born abroad. Generally, children born to two United States citizen parents abroad are automatically United States citizens at birth. When the parents are one United States citizen and one non-United States citizen, certain conditions about the United States citizen's parent's length of time spent in the United States need to be met.[17] See United States nationality law for more details. Non-citizen United States nationals also have a similar benefit (transmission of non-citizen United States nationality to children born abroad).

Civic participation[edit]

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[edit]

Picture of two passport documents.
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 United States 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 United States citizen can hold dual nationality: "A United States citizen may naturalize in a foreign state without any risk to his or her United States 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, United States citizens in general are subject to an expatriation tax if they give up United States 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 United States citizenship and have lived in the United States 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 United States citizenship and have lived in the United States 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.

United States citizens are required by federal law to identify themselves with a United States passport, not with any other foreign passport, when entering or leaving the United States.[29] The Supreme Court case of Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967)[a] declared that a United States 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 United States citizenship. United States 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[edit]

A Welcome to United States Citizenship
A Welcome to United States 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]

The Supreme Court affirmed in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898),[b] that per the Fourteenth Amendment's Citizenship Clause an ethnic Chinese person born in the United States becomes a citizen.[38][39] This is distinct from naturalized citizenship; in 1922 the Court held in Ozawa v. United States, 260 U.S. 178,[c] that a Japanese person, born in Japan but resident in the United States for twenty years, could not be naturalized under the law of the time and in 1923 in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, 261 U.S. 204,[d] that an Indian person could not be naturalized. In the Ozawa decision it was noted that "In all of the naturalization acts from 1790 to 1906 the privilege of naturalization was confined to white persons (with the addition in 1870 of those of African nativity and descent)", 1906 being the most recent legislation in question at the time.

The Equal Nationality Act of 1934 allowed a foreign-born child of a US citizen mother and an alien father, who had entered US territory before age 18 and lived in the United States for five years, to apply for United States citizenship for the first time.[40] It also made the naturalization process quicker for American women's alien husbands.[40] This law equalized expatriation, immigration, naturalization, and repatriation rules between women and men.[40][41] However, it was not applied retroactively, and was modified by later laws, such as the Nationality Act of 1940.[40][42]

Birthright citizenship[edit]

United States 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 United States Virgin Islands.[43][44][45] 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.[46][47] All babies born in the United States — except those born to enemy aliens in wartime or the children of foreign diplomats—enjoy United States citizenship under the Supreme Court's long-standing interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment.[48] 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."[49] There remains dispute as to who is "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States at birth.[50]

By acts of Congress, every person born in Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands is a United States citizen by birth.[51] 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.[52]

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

A child of unknown parentage found in the United States 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.[53]

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 ideally teach the basics of citizenship and create "informed and responsible citizens" who are "skilled in the arts of effective deliberation and action."[54]

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.[55]

Naturalized citizenship[edit]

Acts of Congress provide for acquisition of citizenship by persons born abroad.[56]

Agency in charge[edit]

photograph of a white haired man on left (Albert Einstein) shaking hands with a man in a black robe.
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.[57] It is a bureau of the Department of Homeland Security. It offers web-based services.[58] 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.[58] 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.[58] The USCIS has made efforts to digitize records.[59] A USCIS website says the "United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is committed to offering the best possible service to you, our customer"[60] and which says "With our focus on customer service, we offer you a variety of services both before and after you file your case".[60] 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.[60] The USCIS processes cases in the order they're received.[60]

Pathways to citizenship[edit]

Two men in white Navy uniforms, shaking hands, holding up a certificate, in front of a large American red&white&blue flag.
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 (CVN-73).

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 United States 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.[61] Applicants must also pass a simple citizenship test.[61] 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?"[61] At one point, the Government Printing Office sold flashcards for US$8.50 to help test takers prepare for the test.[62] 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".[57] One reviewer described the new citizenship test as "thoughtful".[58] 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.[57] Six correct answers constitutes a passing grade.[57] The new test probes for signs that immigrants "understand and share American values".[57] A unique way to become a permanent resident is to apply to the US government Diversity Visa (DV) lottery. This program is a drawing for foreigners to apply for a drawing to become a permanent resident.[63]

  • Military participation is often a way for immigrant residents to become citizens. Since many people seek citizenship for its financial and social benefits, the promise of citizenship can be seen as a means of motivating persons to participate in dangerous activities such as fight in wars. For example, a 2009 article in The New York Times said that the United States Military was recruiting "skilled immigrants who are living in this country with temporary visas" by promising an opportunity to become citizens "in as little as six months" in exchange for service in Afghanistan and Iraq where United States forces are "stretched thin".[64] The option was not open to illegal immigrants.[64] One estimate was that in 2009 the US military had 29,000 foreign-born people currently serving who were not American citizens.[64] Spouses of citizens or non-citizens who served in the military also have less difficulty becoming citizens.[citation needed] One analyst noted that "many immigrants, not yet citizens, have volunteered to serve in the United States military forces ... Some have been killed and others wounded ... Perhaps this can be seen as a cynical attempt to qualify more easily for United States citizenship ... But I think that service in the United States military has to be taken as a pretty serious commitment to the United States".[65] Immigrant soldiers who fight for the United States often have an easier and faster path to citizenship.[66] In 2002, President Bush signed an executive order to eliminate the three-year waiting period and made service personnel immediately eligible for citizenship.[66] In 2003, Congress voted to "cut the waiting period to become a citizen from three years down to one year" for immigrants who had served in the armed forces.[66] In 2003, of 1.4 million service members, 37,000 active-duty members were not citizens, and of these, 20% had applied for citizenship.[66] By June 2003, 12 non-citizens had died fighting for the United States in the Iraqi war.[66] The military has had a tradition of "filling out its ranks" with aliens living in the United States.[67] Non-citizens fought in World War II, whose honorable service record gave them citizenship in three years instead of five.[67] The military has struggled to "fill its depleted ranks" by recruiting more non-United States citizens.[68]
  • Grandparent rule. Section 322 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA), added in 1994, enabled children of a United States citizen who did not get citizenship at birth, to use the physical presence period in the United States of a grandparent who was a citizen to qualify for United States citizenship.[69] Under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, Section 322 was amended to extend also to children who generally reside outside the United States with a United States citizen parent, whether biological or adopted.[70] The child must be in the legal and physical custody of the United States citizen parent, the child and parent must be lawfully present in the United States for the interview, and the child must take the oath of allegiance before the age of 18 years (for those 14 years or older). The application (Form N-600K) may only be submitted by the United States citizen parent, or by the grandparent or legal guardian within 5 years of the parent's death.[71] In 2006, there were 4,000 applications of citizenship using the physical presence of grandparents. Israel is comprise 90% of those taking advantage of the clause.[69]

Strong demand[edit]

According to a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, "citizenship is a very, very valuable commodity".[72] However, one study suggested legal residents eligible for citizenship, but who don't apply, tend to have low incomes (41%), do not speak English well (60%), or have low levels of education (25%).[16] There is strong demand for citizenship based on the number of applications filed.[72] 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.[73] In the mid-1990s to 2009, the levels rose to about 500,000 per year with considerable variation.[73] In 1996, more than one million people became citizens through naturalization.[74] In 1997, there were 1.41 million applications filed; in 2006, 1.38 million.[72] The number of naturalized citizens in the United States rose from 6.5 million in the mid-1990s to 11 million in 2002.[75] By 2003, the pool of immigrants eligible to become naturalized citizens was 8 million, and of these, 2.7 million lived in California.[75] 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.[72] In 2008, applications decreased to 525,786.[72]

Naturalization fees were US$60 in 1989; US$90 in 1991; US$95 in 1994; US$225 in 1999; US$260 in 2002; US$320 in 2003; US$330 in 2005.[76] In 2007 application fees were increased from US$330 to US$595 and an additional US$80 computerized fingerprinting fee was added.[72] The biometrics fee was increased to US$85 in 2010. On December 23, 2014, the application fees were increased again from US$595 to US$640. The high fees have been criticized as putting up one more wall to citizenship.[57] Increases in fees for citizenship have drawn criticism.[77] Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and former Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner, doubted that fee increases deter citizenship-seekers.[72] In 2009, the number of immigrants applying for citizenship plunged 62%; reasons cited were the slowing economy and the cost of naturalization.[72]

Citizenship ceremonies[edit]

Naturalization Ceremonies Program
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.[57] Many new citizens are sworn in during Independence Day ceremonies.[18] Most citizenship ceremonies take place at offices of the United States 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".[78] According to federal law, citizenship applicants who are also changing their names must appear before a federal judge.[78]

Honorary citizenship[edit]

Picture of a painting of a man with a mustache wearing a red V collar; the man is slightly bald, and looking to his left.
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 United States citizen, but this is not considered honorary citizenship.[66] In June 2003, Congress approved legislation to help families of fallen non-citizen soldiers.[66]

Corporate citizenship[edit]

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.[79] 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.[79] Alaska Airlines, a competitor of Virgin America, asked for a review of the situation; according to United States law, "foreign ownership in a United States air carrier is limited to 25% of the voting interest in the carrier", but executives at Virgin America insisted the airline met this requirement.[79]

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".[80]

Distinction between citizenship and nationality[edit]

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA) made a minor distinction between United States citizenship and United States nationality.[81] Citizenship comprises a larger set of privileges and rights for those persons that are United States citizens which is not afforded to individuals that are only United States nationals by virtue of their rights under the INA.[82] It is well-established that all United States citizens are United States nationals but not all United States nationals are United States citizens.[81]

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.[83] 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.[84] 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 United States citizens at birth if Congress has passed a citizenship statute in regards to that territory. Thus, people born in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the United States Virgin Islands have United States citizenship at birth, while people born in the Northern Mariana Islands have United States citizenship at birth but may elect to give up United States citizenship while retaining United States nationality at the age of 18.[85] Meanwhile, per 8 U.S.C. § 1408, people born in American Samoa are United States nationals but not United States citizens at birth, and must apply for naturalization if they wish to become US citizens, which requires them to pay a US$680 fee (as of February 11, 2014), pass a good moral character assessment, be fingerprinted and pass an English and civics examination.[86] The nationality status of a person born in an unincorporated United States 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.[87]

The United States 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 D.C. Circuit Court upheld the United States 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,[88] while a 2019 ruling by the Utah District Court held the contrary and ruled that the American Samoan plaintiffs were United States 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).[89][90][91]

Non-citizen nationals of the United States may reside and work in the United States without restrictions, and may apply for United States citizenship under the same rules as permanent United States 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.[92][93]

The United States passport issued to non-citizen 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.[94]

Controversies[edit]

The issue of citizenship naturalization is a highly contentious matter in United States 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.[95] Some measures to require proof of citizenship upon registering to vote have met with controversy.[96]

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.[61][97] Census data affects state electoral clout; it also affects budgetary allocations.[97] 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.[98]

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.[99] 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.[99] 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.[99] 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.[100] 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%.[101] So foreign-born citizens vote in roughly the same proportion (62%) as native citizens (67%).[101]

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".[58] 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.[102] 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.[102] 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".[102] 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".[102] 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.[102]

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 United States demanding United States citizenship for illegal immigrants.[103] Many carried banners which read "We Have A Dream Too".[103] One estimate is that there were 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States in 2006.[103] Many American high school students have citizenship issues.[104] In 2008, it was estimated that there were 65,000 illegal immigrant students.[104] The number was less clear for post-secondary education.[citation needed] A 1982 Supreme Court decision, Plyler v. Doe 457 U.S. 202 (1982),[e] entitled illegal immigrants to free education from kindergarten through high school.[104][105][106] Undocumented immigrants who get arrested face difficulties in the courtroom as they have no constitutional right to challenge the outcome of their deportation hearings.[107] 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 United States prison population, while doing little to solve the problem itself".[108] Barry criticized the United States' high incarceration rate as being "fives times greater than the average rate in the rest of the world".[108] Virginia senator Jim Webb agreed that "we are doing something dramatically wrong in our criminal justice system".[108]

Relinquishment of citizenship[edit]

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.

United States 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.[109] "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 United States diplomatic or consular officer abroad, or before an official designated by the attorney general within the United States during a state of war.[110] Out of an estimated three to six million United States citizens residing abroad, between five and six thousand relinquished citizenship each year in 2015 and 2016.[111] United States nationality law treats people who performs potentially-expatriating acts with intent to give up United States citizenship as ceasing to be United States citizens from the moment of the act, but United States tax law since 2004 treats such individuals as though they remain United States citizens until they notify the State Department and apply for a Certificate of Loss of Nationality (CLN).[112]

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 United States 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.[110] There is a US$2,350 administrative fee for the process.[113] 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.[114] 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.[115]

Revocation of citizenship[edit]

Citizenship can be revoked under certain circumstances.[116] 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 United States citizenship when they perform such expatriating acts like seeking office in a foreign state.[117] Generally, the higher office and more important role a citizen holds in a foreign government, the more at risk the United States citizenship will be: "Serving as a foreign head of state/government or foreign minister may affect the level of immunity from United States 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".[117]

From September 22, 1922 to the passage of Nationality Act of 1940, a woman holding United States citizenship could lose it simply by marriage to an alien or certain aliens ineligible for citizenship.[118][119]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  37. ^ Note: women achieved the right to vote in 1919 after a constitutional amendment.
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  44. ^ 8 U.S.C. § 1401, 8 U.S.C. § 1401a, 8 U.S.C. § 1401b, 8 U.S.C. § 1402, 8 U.S.C. § 1403, 8 U.S.C. § 1404, 8 U.S.C. § 1405, 8 U.S.C. § 1406, 8 U.S.C. § 1407, 8 U.S.C. § 1408, 8 U.S.C. § 1409
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  52. ^ 8 U.S.C. sec. 1403.
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  92. ^ 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).
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  110. ^ a b "7 FAM 1210: Loss and Restoration of United States Citizenship". Foreign Affairs Manual. Department of State. December 19, 2014. Retrieved June 15, 2017. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
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  117. ^ a b https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/travel-legal-considerations/Advice-about-Possible-Loss-of-US-Nationality-Dual-Nationality/Loss-US-Nationality-Foreign-State.html This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  118. ^ http://library.uwb.edu/Static/USimmigration/54%20stat%201137.pdf
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Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Text of Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967) is available from:  Cornell  CourtListener  Findlaw  Google Scholar  Justia  Library of Congress 
  2. ^ Text of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898) is available from:  Cornell  CourtListener  Google Scholar  Justia  Library of Congress  OpenJurist 
  3. ^ Text of Ozawa v. United States, 260 U.S. 178 (1922) is available from:  CourtListener  Findlaw  Google Scholar  Justia  Library of Congress  OpenJurist 
  4. ^ Text of United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, 261 U.S. 204 (1923) is available from:  CourtListener  Findlaw  Google Scholar  Justia  Library of Congress 
  5. ^ Text of Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982) is available from:  Cornell  Google Scholar  Justia  Library of Congress  Oyez (oral argument audio) 

External links[edit]