Citizenship and Nationality/United States


Citizenship is based upon Title 8 of U.S. Code 1401–1409, dated 1986. All citizens are also nationals of the United States, but a few nationals are not citizens of the United States. For instance, American Samoans are nationals but not citizens of the United States.

  • By birth:
    • Child born within the territory of the United States, regardless of the citizenship of the parents. The only exception to this policy is for diplomatic personnel.
  • By descent:
    • Child born abroad, both of whose parents are citizens of the United States, and one of whom resided in the United States before the birth of the child.
    • Child born abroad, one of whose parents is a citizen of the United States who resided in the United States for at least five years before the birth of the child.
  • By naturalization:
    • United States citizenship may be acquired upon fulfillment of the following conditions:
    • Person must be 18 years old, have resided in the United States for at least five years as a lawful permanent resident, be able to speak, read, and write English, be of good moral character, be familiar with the history and culture of the country, be attached to the principles of the United States Constitution, and have renounced former citizenship.
    • Foreign citizens who marry citizens of the United States need only reside in the United States for three years, but must still fulfill the other conditions.
  • Other:
    • Certain provisions for granting citizenship have been extended to persons who have performed specific military service to this country. For more information, contact the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, replacing the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service in many functions in 2003.

Based on the U.S. Department of State regulation on dual citizenship (7 FM 1162), the Supreme Court of the United States has stated that dual citizenship is a “status long recognized in the law” and that “a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both. The mere fact he asserts the rights of one citizenship does not without more mean that he renounces the other,” (Kawakita v. U.S., 343 U.S. 717) (1952).

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) does not define dual citizenship or take a position for it or against it. There has been no prohibition against dual citizenship, but some provisions of the INA and earlier U.S. nationality laws were designed to reduce situations in which dual citizenship exists.

United States law does not contain any provisions requiring U.S. citizens who are born with dual citizenship or who acquire a second citizenship at an early age to choose one or the other when they become adults (Mandeli v. Acheson, 344 U.S. 133) (1952). The current citizenship laws of the United States do not specifically refer to dual citizenship.

While recognizing the existence of dual citizenship and permitting Americans to have other citizenships, the U.S. Government does not endorse dual citizenship as a matter of policy because of the problems that it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual-national U.S. citizens often place them in situations where their obligations to one country are in conflict with the laws of the other.

Loss of citizenship
    • Voluntary renunciation of United States citizenship is permitted by law. However, renunciation can only be made at a U.S. Consulate outside the United States.
    • The following are grounds for involuntary loss of United States citizenship:
    • Person commits treason against the United States.
    • Person takes an oath of allegiance to a foreign state.
    • Person joins the armed forces of a country at war with the U.S.