Difference between a U.S. Citizen and a U.S. National

By: | Updated: Nov-18, 2017

Most Americans know this, but a lot of foreigners don’t. What is the difference between a U.S. citizen and a U.S. national? Some of you may say there is no difference at all, while others may say there is a huge difference between the two. If you say they are exactly the same, this article is for you. In this article, we will discuss when a person is considered a U.S. citizen and when a person is considered a U.S. national and why the two terms are not interchangeable.

Summary Table

U.S. Citizen U.S. National
A person who has attained the highest status in accordance with the U.S. Immigration Law and has acquired certain benefits, rights, and duties from the United States of AmericaAny U.S. citizen or any person who pledges allegiance to the United States but has not been granted full citizenship
Is considered a U.S. citizen if he or she was 1) born in the United States, 2) born to U.S. citizen parents, 3) born in Puerto Rico, The Marianas, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, or 4) a former immigrant who was granted a U.S. citizenship upon applicationAny person who was 1) born in the American Samoa or Swains Island, 2) born outside the U.S. to two U.S. national parents, 3) born in a foreign country to a foreign parent and a U.S. National parent, or 4) born in Guam in 1898-1950, Puerto Rico in 1898-1917, the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1917-1927, or the Philippines in 1898-1946; U.S. nationals also include U.S. citizens
Can vote, hold office, invest in real properties in the U.S., and support the visa application of relatives living abroadCannot vote in elections, hold public office, invest in real properties in the U.S. territory, or sponsor foreign relatives in their visa application
Required to serve on the jury and file federal income tax regardless of his or her country of residence at the present timeDo not have to serve on the jury or settle federal income tax

Descriptions

oath of allegiance

A U.S. citizen is a person who has attained the highest status in accordance with the U.S. Immigration Law. A U.S. citizen has certain benefits, rights, and duties from the United States of America. He or she is a person who:

  • Was born anywhere in the United States (birthright)
  • Was born to parents who are also U.S. citizens (birthright)
  • Is a native of Puerto Rico, The Marianas (Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands), and or the U.S. Virgin Islands (birthright)
  • Was an immigrant who applied for citizenship which was granted (naturalization)

U.S. citizens are entitled to:

  • Reside anywhere in the United States permanently
  • Work anywhere in the United States permanently
  • Freely enter and leave the United States (no obligation to reside in the U.S. for a certain period)
  • Sponsor the visa application of their relatives from abroad
  • U.S. Consulate assistance when abroad
  • Invest in a real property in the U.S.
  • Receive federal assistance
  • Vote in the federal, state, or local elections
  • Hold a public office

If a person is considered a U.S. citizen, he or she is required to:

  • Serve on a jury
  • File federal income taxes regardless of their current country of residence

U.S. citizens are not subject to deportability. However, a former immigrant’s U.S. citizenship can be revoked if the citizenship was acquired fraudulently in the first place.

On the other hand, a U.S. national is any person who is considered a U.S. citizen or a person who pledges allegiance to the United States but has not been granted full citizenship. A person is considered a U.S. national if he or she was:

  • Born in an outlying possession of the United States of America, such as the American Samoa and Swains Island
  • Born outside the United States to two U.S. national parents
  • Born outside the United States to one foreign parent and one U.S. national parent
  • Born in Guam in 1898-1950
  • Born in Puerto Rico in 1898-1917
  • Born in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1917-1927
  • Born in the Philippines in 1898-1946

U.S. nationals have the right to:

  • Live anywhere in the United States
  • Work anywhere in the United States without restrictions
  • Send application for U.S. citizenship through naturalization, provided he or she resides in the U.S. for three months
  • Be protected by the U.S. Embassy when outside the United States
  • Be issued a U.S. passport (with a note that says “The Bearer is a United States National and not a United States Citizen.”)

However, U.S. nationals do not have the right to:

  • Vote in the federal, state, or local elections except in their place of birth
  • Hold a public office

U.S. Citizen vs U.S. National

What, then, is the difference between a U.S. citizen and a U.S. national?

A U.S. citizen is a person who has attained the highest status in accordance with the U.S. Immigration Law and has acquired certain benefits, rights, and duties from the United States of America, whereas a U.S. national is any U.S. citizen or any person who pledges allegiance to the United States but has not been granted full citizenship. In short, all U.S. citizens are U.S. nationals, but not all U.S. nationals are U.S. citizens.

A person is considered a U.S. citizen if he or she was 1) born in the United States, 2) born to U.S. citizen parents, 3) born in Puerto Rico, The Marianas, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, or 4) a former immigrant who was granted a U.S. citizenship upon application.

Any person who was 1) born in the American Samoa or Swains Island, 2) born outside the U.S. to two U.S. national parents, 3) born in a foreign country to a foreign parent and a U.S. national parent, or 4) born in Guam in 1898-1950, in Puerto Rico in 1898-1917, in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1917-1927, or in the Philippines in 1898-1946 is a U.S. national. And of course, U.S. nationals include all U.S. citizens.

Both U.S. citizens and U.S. nationals share many rights and privileges, such as Consulate assistance and freedom to work and live in the U.S. However, U.S. nationals cannot vote in any election, hold any public office, invest in real properties in the U.S. territory, or sponsor foreign relatives in their visa application. To enjoy these, one has to be a U.S. citizen.

In terms of duties, U.S. nationals do not have to serve on the jury or settle federal income tax, as these are only applicable to U.S. citizens.

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