Nationality – Concept, citizenship and naturalization

We explain what nationality is, how it is acquired and its differences with citizenship. In addition, naturalization and dual citizenship.

Nationality is considered a fundamental human right.

What is nationality?

Nationality is the legal bond of belonging and adherence to a legal order that exists between a citizen of a specific nation and the State of the latter. Put in simpler terms, it is about the legal relationship between a person and the nation to which they belong, which gives you rights and at the same time demands certain duties.

It is a complex concept, of importance in the social sciences and international law, which can be understood from multiple points of view. The idea of ​​nationality arose during the nineteenth century, as a consequence of the emergence of nationalism, that is, of nation-states as we understand them in the contemporary world.

Thus, the nationality gives the individual full rights of representation, participation, protection and identity being inside or outside its territory, which is why it is considered a fundamental human right by international organizations.

That is to say, every human being has the right to a nationality, or what is the same, no one can be forced to a state of statelessness (“without a homeland”), regardless of their origin, their professional practice, their personality or even their crimes committed.

Each country establishes its rules for the acquisition and, eventually, the loss or renunciation of nationality, and also whether it allows (or not) the joint possession of other nationalities (two and up to three at the same time). For this to be possible, therefore, there must be a formal legal order, also recognized by other nations, in accordance with the principle of State sovereignty.

The rules for acquiring a nationality usually consist of variants of the following four:

  • Ius sanguinis or blood right. It is the right to nationality that is acquired at birth, since the parents possess it and transmit it to their offspring, regardless of where the latter was born.
  • Ius solis or land rights. It is that right to nationality that is acquired at birth in a specific territory, that is, that is granted to those who are born within the borders of a specific State.
  • Ius domicili or right of domicile. It is the right to nationality that is acquired by the mere fact of domiciling or residing in the territory of the State in question and complying with certain local legal requirements (work, property, time limits, etc.).
  • Ius optandi or optional right. It is that right to nationality that is acquired freely, that is, by which it is chosen, as long as the established legal requirements are met.

Nationality and citizenship

In certain contexts, nationality and sovereignty can be considered synonymous, especially in colloquial language. But in a strict sense, these concepts refer to different notions:

  • Nationality is civil law that grants the individual’s membership to his or her nation of origin (or of choice).
  • Citizenship is a legal-political bond, which is established between a sovereign State and an individual who meets the necessary requirements to exercise their political, social and legal rights.

In this way, citizenship can be lost, or it can also be acquired, while nationality is a link that from certain points of view goes beyond what is legal.

In other words, suppose that a person is punished by their country of origin and their citizenship is withdrawn, that is, their right to participate and exercise the rights and duties that it grants. Does that mean that you have ceased to belong to that nation, as an individual? At least, from a social, cultural and historical point of view, the answer is no.

In some laws, such as the United States, not all who have nationality are citizens (citizens), so that a distinction can be made between national citizens and non-citizen nationals.

Nationality and naturalization

It is known as naturalization when process of acquiring a nationality other than the one you already have, either as a replacement for the first or as an additional nationality.

This type of process is governed by what is established in each specific legislation, that is, they vary from country to country, and usually involve certain steps and documents proving that the necessary precautions are met. Citizens who obtain their nationality in this way are known as naturalized citizens.

Double nationality

double nationality
A person can have two or more nationalities.

As we have already seen, some people may have two and even more nationalities at the same time, as long as the holding of these different citizenships does not result in conflict at any time. Those who have two nationalities are known as binationals, and this criterion can even be used to speak of multinational citizens.

Citizens with dual (or multiple) nationality can choose when entering a country with which of the two to do so, although they cannot change from one to another in the same country. This also implies that are subject to certain obligations of both countries, although normally it is one of the nationalities that is taken as origin, while the other is considered secondary or optional.

Social nationality

By social nationality is understood an affiliation with a culture or a nation that does not go through the strictly legal or legal, but corresponds to a feeling, an identification or a family affiliation.

This nationality may or may not coincide with citizenship, that is, with legal and diplomatic identity, and has to do with a sense of community belonging, usually expressed with the word “people”: the Palestinian people, the Catalan people, etc. This concept should not be confused with that of social citizenship, proposed by Thomas H. Marshall in 1950.