Citizenship is the status of a person recognized under the custom or law as being a legal member of a sovereign state or belonging to a nation.
A person may have multiple citizenships. A person who does not have citizenship of any state is said to be stateless, while one who lives on state borders whose territorial status is uncertain is a border-lander
Nationality is often used as a synonym for citizenship in English – notably in international law – although the term is sometimes understood as denoting a person's membership of a nation (a large ethnic group).In some countries, e.g. the United States, the United Kingdom, nationality and citizenship can have different meanings (for more information, see Nationality versus citizenship).
Each country has its own policies, regulations and criteria as to who is entitled to its citizenship. A person can be recognized or granted citizenship on a number of bases. Usually citizenship based on circumstances of birth is automatic, but in other cases an application may be required.
- Citizenship by birth (jus sanguinis). If one or both of a person's parents are citizens of a given state, then the person may have the right to be a citizen of that state as well. Formerly this might only have applied through the paternal line, but sex equality became common since the late twentieth century. Citizenship is granted based on ancestry or ethnicity and is related to the concept of a nation state common in Europe. Where jus sanguinis holds, a person born outside a country, one or both of whose parents are citizens of the country, is also a citizen. States normally limit the right to citizenship by descent to a certain number of generations born outside the state, although some do not.[clarification needed] This form of citizenship is common in civil law countries.
- Born within a country (jus soli). Some people are automatically citizens of the state in which they are born. This form of citizenship originated in England where those who were born within the realm were subjects of the monarch (a concept pre-dating citizenship) and is common in common law countries.Citizenship by marriage (jus matrimonii). Many countries fast-track naturalization based on the marriage of a person to a citizen. Countries which are destinations for such immigration often have regulations to try to detect sham marriages, where a citizen marries a non-citizen typically for payment, without them having the intention of living together.
- In many cases, both jus soli and jus sanguinis hold citizenship either by place or parentage (or both).
- Naturalization. States normally grant citizenship to people who have entered the country legally and been granted permit to stay, or been granted political asylum, and also lived there for a specified period. In some countries, naturalization is subject to conditions which may include passing a test demonstrating reasonable knowledge of the language or way of life of the host country, good conduct (no serious criminal record) and moral character (such as drunkenness, or gambling), vowing allegiance to their new state or its ruler and renouncing their prior citizenship. Some states allow dual citizenship and do not require naturalized citizens to formally renounce any other citizenship.