Nationality is, in English usage, the legal relationship between a person and a country. Where the country only has one legal system, this represents the common perception, but where the country is federated into separate states, different rules apply. Upon birth, every person acquires a domicile. This is the relationship between a person and a specific legal system. Hence, one might have an Australian nationality and a domicile in New South Wales, or an American nationality and a domicile in Arizona. The person remains subject to the state's jurisdiction for the purposes of defining status and capacity, even while not on the state's territory; in exchange, the individual is entitled to the state's protection, and to other rights as well. This is an aspect of the public policy of parens patriae and the concepts of the social contract. In the civil law systems of continental Europe, the law of nationality is preferred to domicile as the test of a person's status and capacity.

The nationals of a country generally possess the right of abode in the territory of the country whose nationality they hold, though there are some exceptions (e.g., British Nationality Law).

Nationality must be distinguished from citizenship: citizens have rights to participate in the political life of the state of which they are a citizen, such as by voting or standing for election; while nationals need not have these rights, though normally they do.

Traditionally under international law and private international law, it was the right of each state to determine who its nationals are. However, today the law of nationality is increasingly coming under regulation, e.g., by the various conventions on statelessness, and the European Convention on Nationality.

Nationality can generally be acquired by jus soli, jus sanguinis or naturalisation.

Some countries do not permit dual nationality while others only allow a very limited form of dual citizenship (e.g. Indian nationality law). A person who is not a national of any state is referred to as a stateless person.

The nationality of a legal person (e.g., a corporation) is generally the state under whose laws the legal person is registered.

Alternative usage

In Central and Eastern Europe, as well as some other areas of the world, the cognates of nationality is understood as a synonym of ethnicity, i.e., the belonging to a nation — a grouping based rather on cultural self-determination then on relations with a state. For example many people would say they are Kurds, i.e., of Kurdish nationality, despite Kurdistan is no Kurdish state. In the context of the Soviet Union and of former Yugoslavia, nationality is used as translation of the Russian and Serbian terms used for ethnic groups within a country.

Similarly, the nationalities of China are ethnic groups.

See also

nl:Nationaliteit ja:国籍 pl:Narodowość fi:Kansallisuus


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