How do you become a citizen?

Every nation provides ways of becoming a citizen. For most people citizenship is a matter of birth. For others it may be acquired through a process known as naturalization.

Two rules are used to determine citizenship by birth: (1) jus sanguinis ("law of the blood"); and (2) jus soli ("law of the soil"). Under jus sanguinis, children take their parents' nationality regardless of where they are born. For example, a child born to Italian parents in Britain is a citizen of Italy. On the other hand, the rule of jus soli says that children are citizens of the nation in which they are born, no matter what the parents' nationalities are. Thus a child born to Italian parents in Britain is also a citizen of Britain. Since most nations apply both of these rules, a person can become a citizen of two nations. This is called dual citizenship.

Dual citizenship can result from naturalization, which is the legal way in which people change their citizenship. Internal law protects naturalized citizens as long as they live in their new country. But they may lose their new citizenship if they return to the country of their birth and remain for a long time. In wartime, a serious problem could arise if both countries demand their services in the armed forces.

Ward Whipple
Editor, Civic Leader