U.S. Citizen Vs U.S. National: Differences

Citizenship identifies an individual's country of origin. United States citizenship can be defined as a status that entails specific rights, duties, and benefits. U.S. citizens owe their allegiance to the United States and are entitled to its protection.

Most people have only one country of citizenship, but some can have dual citizenship. U.S. citizens can be native-born, foreign-born, or naturalized. U.S. citizens include those who have obtained birthright citizenship or citizenship through naturalization. People acquire citizenship by birth if they are born in the United States or born to U.S. citizen parent(s).

The terms U.S. national and U.S .citizen are often used synonymously, when in fact they are different terms with two different meanings. First, it is essential to understand the concept that all U.S. citizens are U.S. nationals, but not all U.S. nationals are U.S. citizens.

Only a relatively small number of individuals acquire U.S. nationality without becoming U.S. citizens. A U.S. national is any person who has the irrevocable right to reside in the territory of the United States without limitation. This definition includes citizens, and all U.S. citizens are also U.S. nationals. However, the term U.S. national also covers a relatively small number of people who have the unlimited right to reside in the United States, but who are not citizens. The term does not include Green Card holders ([lawful permanent residents - LPR](https://www.usimmigration.org/glossary/permanent-resident)) because while a Green Card grants you the right to reside in the United States it is also revocable.

Anyone born in the unincorporated territories of Puerto Rico (starting in 1917), U.S. Virgin Islands (starting in 1927), or Guam (starting in 1950), is also a U.S. citizen. Someone born in the unincorporated territories of American Samoa or Swains Island, however, is not a U.S. citizen by right of territorial birth but is a U.S. national. Individuals born in Guam between 1898 and 1950, in Puerto Rico between 1898 and 1917, in the US Virgin Islands between 1917 and 1927, or in the Philippines between 1898 and 1946, would also be a U.S. national but not a U.S. citizen, unless citizenship was inherited from his or her parents.

Are you a U.S. National a U.S. Citizen? Or both?

The only significant differences between a U.S. citizen and a non-citizen U.S. national are that a non-citizen U.S. national may not vote in federal elections or hold any federal elected office. They have the same rights to live in the United States as citizens do, and this right is irrevocable, unlike a Green Card holder (LPR status). A U.S. national also has the right to a U.S. passport (the annotations page will show that the holder is a U.S. national and not a citizen.) U.S. nationals are also entitled to the consular protection of the U.S when abroad, and the right to apply for citizenship by naturalization after just three months of residency.

U.S. citizenship is not granted automatically to natives of American Samoa and the Swains. However, natives from Puerto Rico, the Marianas (Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands), and the US Virgin Islands do automatically acquire U.S. citizenship.

Citizenship can be seen as both a status and an ideal. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. —from the Fourteenth Amendment.

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