June 24, 2024
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This article has been written by Jatin Rana ( pursuing a B.A.LL.B. (Hons.) (IVth Year) from Law College Dehradun faculty of Uttaranchal University)


Nationality and Citizenship are not same though on many occasions they are used interchangingly. Both nationality and citizenship are acquired through the State concerned. According to the Hague Codification Conference of 1930, only State can determine who are the nationals and the citizens of that particular State according their Constitution and other laws. In International matters, State is the direct subject and individuals are of the particular nationality are treated accordingly by the other States. Domicile is only related to the resident of the individual in the State and is one of the modes of acquiring both nationality and citizenship.

Concept of Nationality

Nationality is the bond between the State and the individual considered at the international level. The determination of the nationality of the individual lies within the ambit of the municipal law. It the State which determines the nationality of its individual. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that “Everyone has the right to a nationality” and “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality”.

According to Prof. Oppenheim, “Nationality is the legal tie between the individuals and the State. The nationality of an individual is his quality of being a subject of certain State”.[1]

Prof. Starke also has defined the term nationality as the legal status of the membership of collectivity of individuals whose acts, decisions, and policy are vouchsafed through the legal concept of the state representing those individuals.[2]

Nationality is important in International matters because the individuals having nationality of any particular state are considered as the direct subject matter of international law regarding to that State.


There are mainly five ways through which an individual can acquire nationality of any State,

By Birth

This is the most common mode of acquiring nationality. Children born in the territory of the State and also the parents are its nationals, the child gets the nationality of the State. Some States like Great Britian have adopted the principle that the children of alien parents born in the territory of the State also become its nationals.

By Naturalisation

When the nationality of the individual change subsequently, he acquires the nationality of any other State, it called naturalisation. Naturalisation may take place through different acts, like marriage, legitimation, option, acquisition of domicile, appointment as Government official and grant of application.

By Resumption

When any person loses his nationality by naturalisation or due to any other reason, he may get back the nationality of the initial State by following certain conditions and procedures as laid down by that State.

By Cession

When the territory of the State or the whole State is ceded in any other State, all the individuals get the nationality of the State in which the territory has merged.

Appointment in the public office

A person may also acquire nationality of the State when he is appointed as a public officer in the State.


There are mainly five ways through which an individual can lose his nationality,


Some States have provided right to its people to release their nationality and State may accordingly grant and denationalise the individual.


Some States have made a rule according to which a person loses his nationality if he joins foreign defence or civil service without the permission of the sovereign of his State.


Some Sates have legislation which has fixed the time limit in which the person should return from the foreign State in order to save their nationality. If anyone denies to return back, he may lose his nationality.


When any child of foreign parents is born in the State, that child is considered as the subject of that State and after attaining certain age, the child is provided right to either continue or renounce his nationality.


A person may lose his  initial nationality due to naturalisation in any other State or through marriage or voluntary application.

Concept of Citizenship

Citizenship is a narrower concept as compared to nationality. Citizenship is also a legal relationship between an individual and the State within the ambit of the municipal laws. State has the authority to declare and regard someone as its citizen. Citizenship give all civil and political rights to the people which a non-citizen may not have in that that State. Every citizen of the State is also its nationals but it is not necessary that every national is the citizen of the State.


There are mainly seven ways of acquiring citizenship,

By Domicile

If any person is living in the State for more than fixed period of time and with the intention to love there permanently, he may get the citizenship of the State.

By Migration

Some States has made certain laws on the basis of the past events according to which the migrants from the certain other States may get citizenship of the State when certain conditions and procedures as fixed by the State are followed.

By Registration

Many States has provided a window to the certain categories of persons to get the citizenship of the State if certain conditions are fulfilled. The categories can be on the basis of the origin of the person, relation of the parents with the State, the relation of the marital partner with the State, etc.

By Birth

Every person born in the territory of the State is considered as the citizen of the State if either of his parent is the citizen of the State or any other condition as fixed.

By Descent

Every person born in any foreign State is considered as the citizen of the State of which his parents have the citizenship.

By Naturalisation

It is the act by which the State declare someone as its citizen who was before alien to that State. According to this, the person may acquire the citizenship of the State if he is ready to renounce the citizenship of the foreign State voluntarily.

By Incorporation of Territory

Many Sates have laws according to which if any foreign territory is merged with the State, the people living in that territory may be declared as the citizen of the State.

Concept of Domicile

“Domicile” is different from “the place of birth”. Domicile implies two things togetherly, first is the place of residence in the State and second is the intention which the person have to live permanently in the State. Domicile is one of the grounds to get nationality and citizenship of the Sate.

There are mainly three kinds of Domicile,

Domicile of Origin

It is the domicile which the person acquires at time of his birth in the territory of the State.

Domicile of Choice

It is the domicile which the person acquires after renouncing his domicile of origin and settling in any foreign State.

Domicile by operation of law

It is the domicile which the person acquires according to any special law of the State.


Nationality, citizenship, and domicile are different concepts. If we consider rights of the people, nationality gives rights mainly at international level, citizenship gives right at municipal level and domicile is itself the ground of the right to acquire nationality and citizenship. It is the State which determine the nationality, citizenship, and domicile of the individuals. Both nationality and citizenship plays together in the protection of the human rights of the people within their origin State or foreign State.


Aequitas Sequitur Legem

[1] Prof. L. Oppenheim, “International Law”, Vol. 1, Ninth Edition, (1992), p. 852.

[2] Prof. J.G. Starke’s “International Law”, Eleventh Edition, (1994), p. 307.

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