nationality, in political theory, the quality of belonging to a nation, in the sense of a group united by various strong ties. Among the usual ties are membership in the same general community, common customs, culture, tradition, history, and language. While no one of these factors is essential, some must be present for cohesion to be strong enough to justify the term nationality. Used in this sense, nationality does not necessarily denote membership within a specific political state. There are many examples of nations divided between several states and of states composed of several nations and parts of nations. Thus not all Albanians live in Albania, and, on the other hand, Switzerland has citizens whose native languages are German, French, Italian, and Romansh. In political theory the belief that a state should be identical with a nation is called the "principle of nationalities," or, more commonly, "self-determination." This view is a typical expression of nationalism; it was advanced partly as a means of solving the problem of the national minority after World War I. Nationality in its specific legal sense is a very different concept; it is attachment to a state by a tie of allegiance. Nationals in this sense are fundamentally distinguished from aliens (see alien) and in most, but not all, countries are identical with citizens. Nationality gives the state the right to impose certain duties, especially military service. Some states will punish their nationals for crimes wherever committed; the United States, however, punishes only those crimes, except treason, that are committed within American territorial jurisdiction. States may tax the income and other assets of their nationals regardless of whether they reside abroad. The national owes duties to his government but is also entitled to diplomatic protection when in a foreign country. Such protection includes the assistance of consular officials when the national is accused of crime and the offering of refuge in emergencies. In many instances certain persons, particularly those who have undergone naturalization, will be regarded as nationals by two states at once. Such problems of dual nationality have been a frequent cause of international diplomatic disputes.

See P. Weis, Nationality and Statelessness in International Law (1956); B. Akzin, States and Nations (1966); C. Joseph, Nationality and Diplomatic Protection (1969).

Nationality is a relationship between a person and their state of origin, culture, association, affiliation and/or loyalty. Nationality affords the state jurisdiction over the person, and affords the person the protection of the state.

Traditionally under international law and conflict of laws principles, it is the right of each state to determine who its nationals are. Today the law of nationality is increasingly coming under more international regulation by various conventions on statelessness, as well as some multilateral treaties such as the European Convention on Nationality.

The legal sense of nationality, particularly in the English speaking world, may often mean citizenship, although they do not mean the same thing everywhere in the world; for instance, in the UK, citizenship is a branch of nationality which in turn ramifies to include other subcategories (see British nationality law). Citizens have rights to participate in the political life of the state of which they are a citizen, such as by voting or standing for election. Nationals need not immediately have these rights; they may often acquire them in due time.

Nationality can also mean membership in a cultural/historical group related to political or national identity, even if it currently lacks a formal state. This meaning is said by some authorities to cover many groups, including Kurds, Basques, Catalans, English, Welsh, Scots, Venetians,Palestinians, Tamils, Quebecers and many others.


Where a country has only one legal system, the law will match the common perception, but where the country is divided into separate states, different rules apply. In the common law, upon birth, every person acquires a domicile. This is the relationship between a person and a specific legal system. Hence, one might have an Australian nationality and a domicile in New South Wales, or an American nationality and a domicile in Arizona. The residents of a country generally possess the right of abode in the territory of the country whose legal documents they hold. This, however, is dependent upon the constitution of the named land, and there are exceptions, particularly among more economically stable nations (e.g., British Nationality Law).

The person remains subject to the state's jurisdiction (the lex domicilii in Conflict of Laws) for the purposes of defining status and capacity wherever he or she might travel outside the state's territory; in exchange, the individual is entitled to the state's protection, and to other rights as well. This is an aspect of the public policy of parens patriae and derives from the social contract. In the civil law systems of continental Europe, either the law of nationality (known as the lex patriae) or the law of the place of habitual residence is preferred to domicile as the test of a person's status and capacity.

Some countries do not permit dual nationality while others only allow a very limited form of dual citizenship (e.g. Indian nationality law, South African nationality law, Republic of China nationality law). A person who is not a national of any state is declared a stateless person.

In the United States, the term "national" usually means someone who has U.S. nationality, but not United States citizenship, by virtue of living in a U.S. territory. Though it applied to other U.S. territories in the past, today only residents of American Samoa and Swains Island are considered U.S. "nationals"; Congress has granted full citizenship to residents of the remaining territories. U.S. "nationals" have the same rights to enter, live, and work in the United States as citizens; voting rights are the only major difference. Legally, however (and in the broader sense), U.S. citizens are also U.S. nationals; United States passports do not distinguish between citizens and non-citizen nationals.

Alternative usage

In several non-English speaking areas of the world, the cognate word for nationality in local language may be understood as a synonym of ethnicity, as nation can be defined as a grouping based on cultural self-determination rather than on relations with a state. For example, many people would say they are Kurds, i.e., of Kurdish nationality, even though no such Kurdistan state exists (the postulated homeland is divided among five countries). In the context of former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia, nationality is often used as translation of the Russian and Serbo-Croatian terms (национальность/ natsionalnost, народност/narodnost) used for ethnic groups and local affiliations within those (former) states. Similarly, the term "nationalities of China" refers to cultural groups in China. Spain is one Nation, made out by nationalities, which are not nations, or can be considered smaller nations within the Spanish Nation.

See also


White, Philip L. (2006). "Globalization and the Mythology of the Nation State," In A.G.Hopkins, ed. Global History: Interactions Between the Universal and the Local Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 257-284.

External links

  • A list of nationalities List of nationalities in various formats (CSV, TXT, HTML) for use in databases and applications
  • Grossman, Andrew. Gender and National Inclusion
  • Trott, Philip D A. Dual Nationality
  • White, Philip L. "Globalization and the Mythology of the Nation State," In A.G.Hopkins, ed. Global History: Interactions Between the Universal and the Local Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, pp. 257-284.

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