U.S. Citizen Definition

Citizenship in the United States is a status that entails specific rights, duties, and benefits.

U.S. citizenship is usually acquired by birth when a child is born in the territory of the United States. In addition to U.S. states, this includes the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A U.S. Citizen has the right to live and work in the United States and to receive federal assistance.

There are two ways to become a U.S. citizen: by birth, in which a person is presumed to be a citizen provided that they are born within the territorial limits of the United States, or through citizenship of a parent, and naturalization, a process in which an immigrant applies for citizenship and is accepted. Both pathways to citizenship are specified in the Citizenship Clause of the Constitution's 1868 Fourteenth Amendment.

Under U.S. law, a citizen of another country once naturalized as a U.S. citizen may retain their previous citizenship, though they must renounce allegiance to the other country. A U.S. citizen retains U.S. citizenship when becoming the citizen of another country, should that country's laws allow it. Citizenship can be renounced by American citizens who also hold another citizenship via a formal procedure at a U.S. Embassy, and it can also be restored.

The first concept of Citizenship began in colonial times as an operative relation between people working cooperatively to solve local problems and participating actively in democratic decision-making. People met regularly to discuss local affairs and make decisions. Citizenship became less defined by participation in politics and more defined as a legal relation with accompanying rights and privileges.

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