Citizenship is membership in a political community (originally a city but now usually a state), and carries with it rights to political participation; a person having such membership is a citizen. It is largely coterminous with nationality, although it is possible to have a nationality without being a citizen (i.e. be legally subject to a state and entitled to its protection without having rights of political participation in it); it is also possible to have political rights without being a national of a state – for example a citizen of Mozambique (or another Commonwealth country) resident in the UK is entitled to full political rights.
See nationality for further discussion of the properties of national citizenship and how it can be acquired.
Citizenship also often implies working towards the betterment of the community one lives in through participation, volunteer work and efforts to improve life for all citizens. In this vein, some schools in England and Wales give citizenship lessons – a slight variation of Personal and Social Education.
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Citizenship most usually relates to membership of the nation state, but the term can also apply at subnational level. Subnational entities may impose requirements, of residency or otherwise, which permit citizens to participate in the political life of that entity, or to enjoy benefits provided by the government of that entity. In such cases, those eligible are also sometimes seen as "citizens" of the relevant state, province or region.
In recent years, some intergovernmental organisations have extended the concept and terminology associated with citizenship to international level; where it is applied to the totality of the citizens of their constituent countries combined. Two examples are given below. As of 2005, citizenship at this level is a secondary concept, with a weaker status than national citizenship.
European Union (EU) citizenship
The Maastricht Treaty introduced the concept of citizenship of the European Union. This citizenship flows from national citizenship — one holds the nationality of an EU member state and as a result becomes a "citizen of the Union" in addition.
EU citizenship offers certain rights and privileges within the EU; in many areas EU citizens have the same or similar rights as native citizens in member states. Such rights granted to EU citizens include:
- the right of abode
- the right to vote and the right to stand in local and European elections
- the right to apply to work in any position (including national civil services with the exception of sensitive positions such as defence).
EU member states also use a common passport design, burgundy coloured with the name of the member state, national seal and the title "European Union" (or its translation).
Union citizenship continues to gain in status and the European Court of Justice has stated that Union citizenship will be the "fundamental status of nationals of Member States" (see Case C-184/99 Rudy Grzelczyk v Centre Public d'Aide Sociale d'Ottignes-Louvain-la-Neuve,  ECR I-6193, para 31). The European Commission has affirmed that Union citizenship should be the fundamental status of EU nationals.
The concept of "Commonwealth Citizenship" has been in place ever since the establishment of the Commonwealth of Nations. However it has never been considered equal in status to national citizenship. As with the EU, one is a citizen of a Commonwealth state and as a result holds Commonwealth citizenship in addition. This form of citizenship offers certain privileges within the Commonwealth (although in recent years these are fairly limited and by no means unique):
- In many, but not all, Commonwealth countries, citizens have no need for visas to travel to other Commonwealth countries
- Citizens of Commonwealth countries resident in other Commonwealth countries is entitled to most or full political rights, i.e. they have the right to vote in local and national elections whilst being permanent residents and in some cases may even stand for election.
- In some instances the right to work in any position (including the civil service) is granted, except for certain specific positions (e.g. defence, Governor-General or President, Prime Minister).
Whilst Commonwealth citizenship is usually enshrined in the written constitutions (where applicable) of Commonwealth states and is considered by some to be a form of dual citizenship, there has never been, nor are there any plans for a common passport.
Some countries extend "honorary citizenship" to those whom they consider to be especially admirable or worthy of the distinction.
- British statesman Sir Winston Churchill (1963)
- Swedish humanitarian and diplomat Raoul Wallenberg (1981)
- Pennsylvania founder William Penn and his wife Hannah Callowhill Penn (1984)
- Macedonian-born Catholic nun and humanitarian Mother Teresa (1996)
- French nobleman and American Revolutionary War ally, the marquis de La Fayette (2002)
A bill was introduced in Congress to grant such status to the Russian nuclear physicist and prisoner of conscience Dr. Andrei Sakharov in 2002 but it was not made law.
- British citizenship
- Citizenship (Canada)
- Indian citizenship
- Japanese, born overseas
- jus sanguinis
- jus soli
- multiple citizenship
- permanent residency
- United States citizenship