What is the definition of Citizenship

Zoe Hurwitz, 3, of Chica, held by her mother Gretta Hurwitz, smiles Thursday, July 4, 2002, as she is sworn in as a U.S. citizen. The naturalization ceremony was held at Monticello, the birthplace of Thomas Jefferson, in Charlottesville, Virginia. Seventy others were sworn in as well. (Photo: Andrew Shurtleff, The Daily Progress/ AP Wide World)
A citizen is a participatory member of a political community. Citizenship is gained by meeting the legal requirements of a national, state, or local government. A nation grants certain rights and privileges to its citizens. In return, citizens are expected to obey their country's laws and defend it against its enemies.

The value of citizenship varies from nation to nation. In some countries, citizenship can mean a citizen has the right to vote, the right to hold government offices, and the right to collect unemployment insurance payments, to name a few examples.

Living in a country does not mean that a person is necessarily a citizen of that country. Citizens of one country who live in a foreign country are known as aliens. Their rights and duties are determined by political treaties and by the laws of the country in which they stay. In the United States, aliens must obey the laws and pay taxes, just as U.S. citizens do. They must register with the U.S. government to obtain legal permission to stay for an extended length of time. Legal aliens are entitled to protection under the law and to use of the courts. They may also own property, carry on business, and attend public schools. But aliens cannot vote or hold government office. In some states they are not allowed to practice certain professions until they become citizens.

Under United States law, a noncitizen national is a person who is neither a citizen nor an alien but who owes permanent loyalty to the United States. People in this category have some but not all of the rights of citizens. For example, inhabitants of a United States territory may not have the right to vote. Noncitizen nationals of the United States include those people on the Pacific islands of American Samoa who were born after the territory was taken over by the United States in 1900.

Ward Whipple
Editor, Civic Leader

>