A United States national is defined as any individual who “owes their sole allegiance to the United States.” This includes both certain individuals who are not United States citizens as well as United States citizens.

A United States national has the irrevocable right to reside in the United States with no limitations. This includes citizens.

For tax and legal uses, the term United States national refers to individuals who were born in the American Samoan Islands. This term also refers to individuals who were born in the Northern Mariana Islands and who have chosen to be classified as United States nationals instead of United States citizens.

A United States national has many rights and privileges under United States laws. These individuals also have specific duties and obligations under United States laws, including the duty to serve in the United States military branches when they are called to do so.

What is the Difference between a National and a Citizen?

United States citizens are also United States nationals. There is only a small group of individuals who acquire United States nationality without becoming a United States citizen.

In other words, there are only a small number of people who have the unrestricted right to reside in the United States but they are not citizens. This group does not include green card holders, or lawful permanent residents.

A United States citizen is an individual who:

  • Was born in the United States;
  • Has been naturalized as a citizen; or
  • Was born in:
    • Puerto Rico;
    • Guam; or
    • The U.S. Virgin Islands.

In addition, there are complex laws regarding individuals whose parents are United States citizens. For example, the Child Citizenship Act provides automatic citizenship for certain individuals whose parents meet the strict requirements.

An individual who is not a United States citizen is not permitted to vote in a federal election or hold a federal elected office.

What are the Advantages of Becoming a United States Citizen?

There are numerous benefits to becoming a United States citizen compared to a permanent resident. These include:

  • There is no need for the individual to renew their green card;
  • There is a reduced risk of removal, or deportation;
  • Travel and reentry into the United States is easier;
  • An individual will not lose their status after a long trip outside the United States;
  • A U.S. citizen can petition for other family members to immigrate;
  • The ability to pass citizenship to children who hold green cards;
  • The ability to run for office and to vote;
  • The ability to obtain government jobs, grants, and additional benefits;
  • Estate planning and tax benefits; and
  • The ability to obtain a United States passport.

An individual with a green card has to renew it every ten years. As a U.S. citizen, an individual will not be required to carry their green card or proof of status with them on an everyday basis.

A green card holder may be removed for committing certain crimes or engaging in other activities which match the grounds of deportability under United States immigration laws. A United States citizen cannot be deported. However, it is important to note that citizenship can be taken away from an individual if the USCIS discovers they lied to obtain their status.

A citizen does not have to wait in the lines for green card holders at United States airports, borders, or other entry points. A United States citizen enters in a separate line with less scrutiny.

Additionally, United States citizens typically enjoy easier entry into other countries around the world. In many cases, an individual is permitted to visit foreign countries without a visa.

If a United States citizen spends months or years outside of the U.S., they will not risk losing their right to return. A permanent resident, however, who leaves the U.S. for more than 180 days can lose their right to their green card upon reentry into the United States.

If an individual is outside of the U.S. more than 180 days, an immigration officer may deem them to have abandoned their green card. If an individual plans to be outside the country for a long period of time, they may wish to consult with an immigration attorney and obtain a reentry permit prior to leaving the U.S.

A United States citizen can petition for more different family members to be allowed into the U.S. than a green card holder. A U.S. citizen may petition for parents, siblings, as well as married children. Additionally, when United States citizens or green card holders submit a petition, as with spouses, the wait time tends to be significantly shorter for United States citizens.

When an individual becomes a United States citizen, their unmarried children under the age of 18 will automatically become United States citizens as well. It is important to note, however, that they are required to be lawful permanent residents, must be residing in the United States, and must be in the physical and legal custody of the parent who is naturalizing.

Only United States citizens are permitted to vote. A naturalized United States citizen is permitted to run for most, but not all, elected public office positions.

There are certain jobs with the United States government which require citizenship. This may include federal, state, and local government positions. There are also numerous federal scholarships and grants which are only available to United States citizens.

Permanent residents and United States citizens are not always treated in the same manner when it comes to estate planning and tax issues. It is important to speak with a Certified Public Accountant or attorney regarding these issues.

A United States citizen is permitted to obtain a passport. They are also permitted to obtain assistance from United States embassies as well as consulates when they are traveling in other countries.

Are There Any Restrictions Associated with Being a United States National?

Both United States nationals and United States citizens share similar rights. For example, both are eligible to hold a United States passport.

A United States national, however, is not permitted to vote or hold office. United States nationals are also permitted to apply for United States citizenship in a manner which is similar to lawful permanent residents (LPRs).

Lastly, a United States national can, in some cases, be a national of two countries. This is called dual nationality and, in many cases, is referred to as dual citizenship. It is important to note, however, nationality in the second country may, in some cases, require the individual to renounce their United States nationality status.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

It is essential to have the assistance of an immigration lawyer for any immigration issues you may be facing. Immigration laws can be highly detailed and very complex.

If you have any questions about legal issues regarding your immigration status, you may wish to consult with an attorney. Your attorney can advise you regarding your rights and obligations under United States law.

In addition, if you need to file an immigration application, your lawyer can assist you with the process from start to finish. If you have any legal complaints or disputes, your lawyer can represent you during those as well.