Citizenship Rights

Countries have rules that determine who is a citizen, and what rights and responsibilities come with citizenship. In the United States, the 14th Amendment gives constitutional protection of the basic rights of citizenship.

Native-born Citizens: Any individual born within the boundaries of the United States or territories is eligible for citizenship. If a foreign woman travels to the United States and gives birth to the child before leaving, the child is an American citizen, but the mother is not. Also, children born to American citizens abroad are also native-born citizens. Naturalized citizens have all the advantage of native-born citizens except one—the right to run for President of the United States. People may have dual citizenship if they are living outside the U.S. or if they were born in the U.S. to foreign citizens.

Citizenship by Naturalization: Naturalization is the granting of citizenship to a non-citizen (alien) living in the United States. To apply for citizenship, you must be at least 18 years old, be able to read, write, and speak English, and have lived in the U.S. for five continuous years, or three years if married to a citizen. An alien must file a petition and the Immigration and Naturalization Service holds a hearing where the applicant answers background questions. The applicant also answers questions about American government and history. If successful, the individual attends a hearing to swear an oath of allegiance to the laws and Constitution of the United States.

Loss of Citizenship: Americans may lose their citizenship in three ways:

  • Expatriation, or giving up one's citizenship by leaving the United States to live in and becoming a citizen of another country.
  • Punishment for a federal crime, such as treason.
  • Fraud in the naturalization process.

Congress has the power to set restrictions on who may be admitted to live in the U.S. The first immigration limitation acts were passed in the late 1800s, and eventually limits were placed on how many people could come from each country. Quotas from individual countries were eliminated, but Congress sets a ceiling on the number allowed to enter the United States each year.

The Rights of Aliens: The wording of the Constitution allows aliens to have many constitutional rights. The founders referred to persons rather than citizens, and so the Supreme Court has allowed aliens the following rights: property ownership, business ownership, enrollment in public schools, First Amendment freedoms, and due process.

With these rights come responsibilities, so aliens must pay taxes. They are not allowed to vote, they cannot hold public office, and they may be deported from the U.S.

All United States citizens are protected by the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, as well as by the state and national laws.

Source: Citizenship Rights
Copyright ©2008-2017 ushistory.org, owned by the Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia, founded 1942.

Back to top