If you are born in the United States or one of its territories, you are likely a United States citizen. However, there are exceptions to this. For instance, those born in American Samoa or Swains Island are typically U.S. nationals. In the past, those born in some other U.S. territories were also considered to be U.S. nationals rather than U.S. citizens.
U.S. nationals share many characteristics with U.S. citizens. However, there are essential differences between the rights, duties, and benefits assigned to these groups. If a U.S. national wishes to obtain citizenship, their path is much easier than for most other groups who come to live in the United States as permanent residents.
Who Is a U.S. National?
All U.S. citizens are also U.S. nationals. However, U.S. nationals are not all U.S. citizens. Those born in American Samoa and Swains Island are U.S. nationals but not citizens. Additionally, the children of U.S. nationals born outside of the U.S. and its territories might qualify as U.S. nationals if they meet certain criteria.
Rights and Restrictions of a U.S. National
Like United States citizens, U.S. nationals have the right to obtain a U.S. passport. This passport will denote that they are nationals of the U.S. rather than citizens. Additionally, U.S. nationals can receive U.S. consular protection when traveling in a foreign country.
U.S. nationals have the right to reside in the United States without having to apply to get a green card. Additionally, they can choose to apply for citizenship through naturalization after three months of residency.
The voting rights of U.S. nationals are restricted. While you can vote in local elections in your territory of birth, you will not be able to participate in U.S. elections. U.S. nationals can vote to send a delegate to Congress. However, the person elected to that post will be a non-voting delegate.
Who Is a U.S. Citizen?
United States citizens are those who have obtained citizenship through birth, acquisition, derivation, or naturalization. Most of those born in the United States or its territories obtain automatic citizenship.
Rights and Restrictions of a U.S. Citizen
The rights of U.S. citizens are vast and far more extensive than those of U.S. nationals. One of the most substantial rights that U.S. citizens have, which does not extend to U.S. national non-citizens is the right to vote in U.S. elections.
Can a Person Be a U.S. National and a U.S. Citizen?
Yes. Anyone who is a United States citizen is also a U.S. national.
How to Prove U.S. Nationality
United States nationals can prove their status either by way of a birth certificate or by obtaining a U.S. passport, which denotes their status as a U.S. national.
Benefits for U.S. Nationals Who Naturalize
The benefits for U.S. citizens vs U.S. nationals are significant. While U.S. nationals possess many of the same rights as citizens, one of the most significant rights they will gain is the right to participate in U.S. elections.
Not only does this mean that U.S. nationals gain the right to vote when they naturalize, but they can also run for elected office.
How U.S. Nationals Become American Citizens
To become a United States citizen, a U.S. national must follow the naturalization process that all permanent residents go through, with one key exception. For the purposes of becoming a U.S. citizen, the requirement to hold residency within the United States can be met by time spent in their home territory.
That means that the only time requirement for a U.S. national when applying for citizenship is that they must have established residency in the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) district where they are applying three months before submitting their application.
Get Help Applying for Citizenship as a U.S. National
For some, the benefits for U.S. nationals vs. U.S. citizens are not significant enough to go through the hassle of applying for citizenship. However, for many, the rights obtained through citizenship are crucial.
If you are applying for United States citizenship as a U.S. national, Immigration Direct can help you make sure that all your paperwork is filled out correctly.
A single mistake on your application can lead to significant delays. Make sure everything is in order and gets filed correctly the first time so that you can begin enjoying the full benefits of U.S. citizenship.