For people outside the United States the difference between a US national and a US citizen might seem unimportant, or one might not even spot there’s a difference at all. However, for those living or linked to the US this status is of special importance to their everyday life, since privileges and duties depend a lot on one’s status in the United States.
Main Difference Between a U.S Citizen and a U.S National
Though to many it may sound as the same thing, they actually differ from each other. The main thing one should know before starting to spot the differences between both is that:
“All US citizens are automatically US nationals, but not all US nationals are automatically US citizens.”
It sounds a bit of a cliche to many. But it is not. Just keep in mind that if you are a US citizen, then you are a US national too. Which means you cannot be a US citizen without being a US national first.
However, US nationality does not automatically grant you with US citizenship.
Below find the definition and characteristics of both, to understand the way they differ from each other, and why it is important for one to know which status he or she holds.
What is a U.S National?
According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, a US national is a person born to a parent of “outlying possessions of the United States,” which territories include American Samoa and Swains Island.
Privileges of U.S nationals
A U.S national has the following privileges:
- consular protection of the US when abroad
- possession of US documentations (i.e. US passports)
- the right to reside and work in the US
- the right to apply for US citizenship by naturalization after three months of residency in the US under the same rules as a permanent resident
Restrictions of U.S Nationals
U.S nationals also have restrictions due to absence of citizenship as:
- not entitled to voting representation in Congress
- not entitled to vote in Federal, state, or local elections (except in their place of birth)
- and though non-citizen US nationals can vote to send a delegate to the congress, that individual is a non-voting delegate
What is a US citizen?
Usually a U.S citizen is considered an individual:
- who was born in the United States.
- who was born in Puerto Rico
- who was born in Guam
- who was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands
- who was born in the Northern Mariana Islands
- whose parent is a U.S. citizen.
- who has been naturalized as a US citizen
Privileges of being a U.S Citizen in addition to U.S nationality privileges
- The right to vote in elections, and
- Voting representation in Congress