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For other uses, see citizen (disambiguation).

Citizenship is membership in a political community (originally a city but now usually a state), and carries with it rights to political participation; a person having such membership is a citizen. It is largely coterminous with nationality, although it is possible to have a nationality without being a citizen (i.e. be legally subject to a state and entitled to its protection without having rights of political participation in it); it is also possible to have political rights without being a national of a state - for example a citizen of a Commonwealth country resident in the United Kingdom is entitled to full political rights.

See nationality for further discussion of the properties of national citizenship and how it can be acquired.

Citizenship also often implies working towards the betterment of the community one lives in through participation, volunteer work and efforts to improve life for all citizens. In this vein, some schools in England and Wales give citizenship lessons – a slight variation of Personal and Social Education.


Subnational citizenship

Citizenship most usually relates to membership of the nation state, but the term can also apply at subnational level. Subnational entities may impose requirements, of residency or otherwise, which permit citizens to participate in the political life of that entity, or to enjoy benefits provided by the government of that entity. But in such cases, those eligible are also sometimes seen as "citizens" of the relevant state, province, or region.

Citizenship as explained above is the political rights of an individual within a society. Thus, you can have a citizenship from one country and be a national of another country. One example might be as follows: A Cuban-American might be considered a national of Cuba due to his being born there, but he could also become an American citizen through naturalization. Some countries like Cuba and the United States of America forbid dual citizenship in the other country because of political tensions between the two nations. However, even though one might acquire another citizenship, one will always be a national of the country in which he was born. Nationality most often derives from place of birth and, in some cases, ethnicity. Citizenship derives from a legal relationship with a state. Citizenship can be changed but nationality will remain forever.

Supranational citizenship

In recent years, some intergovernmental organisations have extended the concept and terminology associated with citizenship to international level; where it is applied to the totality of the citizens of their constituent countries combined. Two examples are given below. As of 2005, citizenship at this level is a secondary concept, with a weaker status than national citizenship.

European Union (EU) citizenship

The Maastricht Treaty introduced the concept of citizenship of the European Union. This citizenship flows from national citizenship — one holds the nationality of an EU member state and as a result becomes a "citizen of the Union" in addition.

EU citizenship offers certain rights and privileges within the EU; in many areas EU citizens have the same or similar rights as native citizens in member states. Such rights granted to EU citizens include:

  • the right of abode
  • the right to vote and the right to stand in local and European elections
  • the right to apply to work in any position (including national civil services with the exception of sensitive positions such as defence).

EU member states also use a common passport design, burgundy coloured with the name of the member state, national seal and the title "European Union" (or its translation).

Union citizenship continues to gain in status and the European Court of Justice has stated that Union citizenship will be the "fundamental status of nationals of Member States" (see Case C-184/99 Rudy Grzelczyk v Centre Public d'Aide Sociale d'Ottignes-Louvain-la-Neuve, [2001] ECR I-6193, para 31). The European Commission has affirmed that Union citizenship should be the fundamental status of EU nationals however this is not accepted by many of the member states of the European Union.

Commonwealth citizenship

The concept of "Commonwealth Citizenship" has been in place ever since the establishment of the Commonwealth of Nations. As with the EU, one holds Commonwealth citizenship only by being a citizen of a Commonwealth member state. This form of citizenship offers certain privileges within some Commonwealth countries:

  • Some such countries do not require tourist visas of citizens of other Commonwealth countries.
  • In some Commonwealth countries resident citizens of other Commonwealth countries are entitled to political rights, e.g., the right to vote in local and national elections and in some cases even the right to stand for election.
  • In some instances the right to work in any position (including the civil service) is granted, except for certain specific positions (e.g. defence, Governor-General or President, Prime Minister).

Whilst Commonwealth citizenship is sometimes enshrined in the written constitutions (where applicable) of Commonwealth states and is considered by some to be a form of dual citizenship, there have never been, nor are there any plans for a common passport.

Although the Republic of Ireland left the Commonwealth in 1949, it is often treated as if it were a member, with references being made in legal documents to 'the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland', and its citizens are not classified as foreign nationals, particularly in the United Kingdom.

Honorary citizenship

Some countries extend "honorary citizenship" to those whom they consider to be especially admirable or worthy of the distinction.

By Act of Congress and presidential assent, honorary United States citizenship has been awarded to:

A bill was introduced in Congress to grant such status to the Russian nuclear physicist and prisoner of conscience Dr. Andrei Sakharov in 2002 but it was not made law.

The only people to ever receve honourary Canadian citizenship are Raoul Wallenberg posthumously in 1985, and Nelson Mandela in 2001.

Historical citizenship

Historically, many states limited citizenship to only a proportion of their nationals, thereby creating a citizen class with political rights superior to other classes, but equal with each other. The classical example of a limited citizenry was Athens where slaves, women, and metics were excluded from political rights, but the Roman Republic forms another example, and, more recently, the szlachta of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had some of the same characteristics.

See also

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