National & Nationality

A person who has the “nationality” of a country X is a “national” of country X.

Most countries’ nationals have automatic, unrestricted rights to reside in that country. Having a passport of a country is far more useful than any visa or residence permit. This is because a visa or residence permit will have restrictions and can expire in certain circumstances, for example, on a long absence from the country.

Almost all countries today have only one nationality. Exceptions are the United Kingdom (6 nationalities), Myanmar (3 nationalities) and the United States (2 nationalities, namely that of United States citizen and United States national).

The nationality of a person is their identity in international law as belonging to a certain state.

Citizen & Citizenship

Citizenship (as opposed to nationality) is about the rights and responsibilities that define a person’s place in society.

In most countries, citizenship and nationality usually mean the same thing, and there is only one nationality, whether or not it is termed a “citizenship”.

If there is more than one nationality, some categories of national may not have all the rights of citizens. Examples are the United Kingdom (6 nationalities), Myanmar (3 nationalities) and the United States (2 nationalities – United States citizen and United States national).

Nationality is normally proved by a passport issued by the government of X (or one of its dependencies) which describes the holder as having the nationality of X. Some countries have a “Certificate of Nationality” or other document that is considered to be official evidence or confirmation of nationality.


A document showing a person’s nationality.

A passport is the best evidence of the nationality.

A passport issued by the government of the UK or a British colony, protectorate or other dependency is usually referred to as a “British passport”, even if it does not have those words on the front cover.

Naturalisation or Naturalization

Becoming a citizen of a country by grant.

Dual Nationality

A person who has two nationalities.

In some cases, the law of a country will:

  • not grant a person citizenship if he/she does not first renounce every other citizenship they might have,
  • cause a person to lose citizenship if he/she has another citizenship,
  • cause a person to lose citizenship if he/she acquires another citizenship through a voluntary process.


A person who is not a national.

Some countries explicitly define this status in their nationality law. In some Commonwealth countries, such as the UK, the definition of alien does not include the citizen of another Commonwealth country or Ireland.


A person who does not have the nationality of any country.

Status Trace

A systematic evaluation of a person under the nationality laws of the country of interest: this will often force a similar evaluation of other connected people, such as a parent, grandparent or spouse. It is also known as a ‘nationality profile’.



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