What is Citizenship?

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Citizenship is a concept that is difficult to universally define; it is recognized as a form of identity, representing the culture, heritage, and traditions one is born into. However, some countries today permit people to become citizens of that respective country as long as they meet the requirements and follow the regulations needed to achieve citizenship. This process is known as naturalization.

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Some would argue that naturalization should be removed as an option to obtain citizenship of a country, due to people being allowed to have more than one citizenship and abusing dual citizenship rights. Though there is always the underlying negativity of this, naturalization and the ability to possess more than one citizenship simultaneously should remain allowed. It is because of this privilege, that people are able to travel the world and have the opportunity to live in more than one country. Possessing the legal right of citizenship in more than a single country is a significant part of many individuals’ lives. Dual citizenship encompasses and promotes diversity, a key aspect in what has shaped Canada and many other countries- and should continue to be permitted on a national scale. Citizenship is not a modern idea, despite being heavily transformed and shifted in the modern era. In fact, it dates back to the Ancient Greece era of the Romans and Spartans.

In the early eighth century BCE, people participating in the military in Spartan villages were rewarded with rights, privileges and political power over their community. In Ancient Greece, it was impossible to obtain citizenship unless one belonged to a town-dwelling tribe. Skipping forward two centuries to the era of Athens in the sixth century BCE. There seemed to be a lot of foreigners coming into Athens for the chance of better lives from their foreign countries; these foreign residents were given the name Metics. Although these Metics made great contributions to the Athenian society, they were not regarded as citizens, meaning they could not participate in any political activities that normal citizens of Athens could. The natives of Athens were looked at as higher beings with a greater sense of belonging than the Metics. This concept of citizenship bred subsequent examples to follow this protocol, as immigrants were excluded from citizenship rights. Opposing Ancient Greece’s concept of citizenship, in the middle ages era from fifth to fifteenth century CE, the feudal system was the cornerstone of everything political in European cities. The feudal system and migration went hand in hand, citizens were visiting other cities they have never been to.

Foreign trade was prominent in the medieval ages; foreign merchants were frequently moving from kingdom to kingdom to sell goods and from this, migration started to become a common occurrence. Due to this common theme of travel, the Magna Carta – an English charter crafted in the thirteenth century, allowed foreign merchants to stay within the English kingdom and get transported to safety. Although there was a lot of leniencies regarding the permission of merchants being able to roam through Europe freely in the medieval ages, there was no official way of regulating immigration and naturalization. Citizenship was determined by the land one had possession over; this land was normally passed on from older generations. The social hierarchy, with strict regulations of the purchase of land made naturalization and permanent foreign residence very rare. However, this did not prevent foreigners from buying land, paying their taxes and being recognized as citizens that were a part of what would later be called a nation-state. Citizenship is tied directly to the idea of an average nation-state. Becoming a citizen is to become a participant in a nations political affairs with a political community; in the sixteenth century, Europe saw the rise of nation-states. During this time, monarchy systems ruled over nations like Britain, France, and Spain. Nation-states were much more diverse in ethnicity and linguistics than surrounding cities. This is what instigated the nation-states the set up of processing rules for naturalization.

In England, the General Naturalizations Act of 1709 was passed, allowing children born of immigrant parents in England to gain citizenship. These English-born citizens of immigrants, referred to as Denizens did not have all the rights a citizen born from an English family would have: Denizens’ rights to property and to inherit money were restricted. Colonial expansion started becoming more popular at the time, so England introduced a second-class of citizens for the children born of immigrant parents. The immigrant parents of Denizens were not looked at as citizens, so they gained even fewer rights. Even though Europe had made attempts to aid immigrants with thanks to global colonization, it was still proven very difficult to gain the privilege of citizenship. This was Europe’s concept of citizenship, but that did not account for other ideas of citizenship across nations. The United States was forming as a country and was constructing its own concept of citizenship, regardless of Europe’s idea was at the time. Since the United States was its own sovereign nation in the 1780’s, there were lots of people that banded together to create this great nation. Although each citizen had their place to fit in the political community, a majority of citizens felt closer with their primary states of origin than the United States as a whole.

America also did not have a Constitution set up, which made it difficult to determine the magnitude of federal and state power. Thus, state governments assumed the role of federal powers in taking initiative in recognizing and acknowledging immigrants and naturalization by creating guidelines. Due to America’s fragile economy, state governments monitored and restricted poor migrants from foreign nations entering their territory. The state of Georgia expanded on this, creating an act that made all poor migrants entering the state obtain an occupation. New York did something similar, by creating an act that required lower class migrants to bring a legitimate proof of their occupation. However, the United States welcomed rich upper-class migrants that brought great assets to their country with open arms. It could be argued that the United States still holds this principle to this day; welcoming upper-class migrants and regulating the lower-class migrants (Donald Trump and the Mexicans). These policies reflect the economy’s influence on the concept of citizenship and how the class someone belongs to can influence whether or not one is permitted entrance into another country. The United States recognized that it was time for a change, so the state governments transitioned their power of immigration to the federal government.

In 1789, the immigration and naturalization policies were now under the control of the federal government. The federal government swiftly took action and instilled the Naturalization Act of 1790. This act shifted the attention from social economic class to ethnicity. Instead of regulating migrants based on the social class, migrants were now regulated based on skin color. If someone lived in the United States for over two years, they could be declared a citizen – as long as they were white. This act was released during the time slavery was still legal, hence the elevated amount of prejudice against those of lower class or contrasting ethnicities. Women were also excluded based on gender alone, leaving the average white male as the sole part of the population with the opportunity to obtain a citizenship in the United States of America. The Naturalization Act existed and influenced the power structure, leading up until the twentieth century. With large numbers of people moving from place to place, having citizenship in more than one place was quite common: this occurrence is called dual citizenship. Each nation has its own set of rules to regulate who is a citizen, who can become a citizen and who may remain a citizen. Once one is considered a citizen, there are three main principles to fall under: jus soli, jus sanguinis, and jus domicile. Jus soli from Latin, directly means right of soil, meaning if a person’s parents possess citizenship in a specific country, most countries would allow them to obtain citizenship as well for that same country.

Subsequently, jus sanguinis is also from Latin, directly translating to right of blood, meaning if someone were to be born in a country, they normally have the right to gain citizenship. Lastly, jus domicile, right of residence directly links citizenship to permanent residence. These principles are all factors that contribute to the facilitation of obtaining dual citizenship. While there are two principles regarding citizenship, there are two different perspectives towards it. Citizenship is often broken down into two contrasting ideas: the Liberal-Individualist conception and Civic-Republican conception, both formed around the seventeenth and eighteenth century. The Liberal Individualist conception revolves around maintaining dignity and fulfilling one’s duties as a member of society. This point of view supports the belief that citizens act in the services for their own self-interest and benefit. People live with certain obligations to meet; paying taxes, obeying the law, engaging in trades with other persons and defending the nation if necessary, being only a few. However, citizens are to remain politically passive and focus on improving the economy. This goal of this perspective according to its own traits, is to protect and preserve the rights of citizens. While the liberal perspective focuses on fulfilling one’s own economic duties, the Republican perspective focuses on bettering one’s own political self-image. The Civic-Republican concept sees citizenship as an ongoing process, rather than a passive state of being.

This view is concerned about government intervention – that the government will take charge of most public organizations. With all the information on the concept of citizenship this paper has provided, dual citizenship is now an easier topic to dissect. This, in turn, makes it easier to draw a conclusion as to whether or not a person should be able to hold more than one citizenship simultaneously. Dual citizenship is the occurrence when one possesses more than one citizenship to a country. Countries like Canada, United States, and United Kingdom permit this, meanwhile, others like India and Singapore do not. This controversial status has privileges, but when put into the wrong hands, these privileges can be exploited. Some of these exploitations include birth tourism and the right of return, which can have an affect on immigration rates. Birth tourism is a common exploitation taken advantage of by women. This is the act of a pregnant women travelling to a foreign country in order to give birth to for personal gain. Subsequently, the right of return defines that if one were to get banned from being in one country, they have the right to go back to another. These exploits fuel the fire of outrage amongst the political community regarding dual citizenship. As a dual citizen, one must fulfill the duties each country requires them to.

An example of this is double taxation: if someone has a citizenship in the United States and is working in another country. For instance, the United States has the right to tax the income that a person makes in that country and send it back to America. However, the United States has made agreements with other countries such as New Zealand, negating this issue of double taxation. Another drawback of dual citizenship is the dual obligations one must meet. If one has a citizenship in a country that requires military service, they can lose entitlement of their citizenship. Security clearance is another common negative fact of dual citizenship. If one seeks a governmental position, this can be difficult if one does not have a citizenship for that country, exclusively. Although it may be easier for those born into dual citizenship rather than those who have applied for it later in life, dual citizenship can still be a very complicated and expensive process. In order to achieve citizenship in the United States, one would need to apply for permanent residency and live in America for at least 5 years. Permanent residency is expensive to obtain; also considering the fees if one hires an immigration lawyer to try and facilitate the process. While dual citizenship is quite a convoluted and exploitable status, it is worth possessing.

With dual citizenship, there are many benefits and privileges to reap. One with dual citizenship has the ability to vote in either country and depending on the laws and regulations of each country, have the chance of running for office. It is possible to get an education in both countries, without the having to pay the additional cost of tuition that one would normally have to when considered an international student. As some countries restrict land ownership to citizens only, it is now possible to obtain land ownership in more than one country; one also has the benefits of having two passports, making it easier to enter each country and guarantees the right of entry. Nations are destined to be different and diverse from each other; but mixing different cultures will facilitate in helping those of different countries understand the another, thereby making our world a place of richer community.

Dual citizenship as a legal right, is something that affects a good portion of many people’s daily lives. Each different country of the world is diverse in its own way and one would be at an advantage to be able to say that they belong to two separate countries. Having multiple citizenships provides opportune moments to showcase the different cultures, traditions and experiences one has been exposed to. After thorough examination of the history of citizenship, it can be concluded that a globally accepted view of the concept of citizenship is difficult to achieve. Keeping this in mind, citizenship seems to be taking a positive step in the right direction, as racist and sexist obligations have been removed from most countries. Dual citizenship is a factor that plays a huge role in one’s identity; an aspect that is major in any individual’s life, shaping the way that one perceives oneself. Removing this opportunity would affect the factors of freedom and individuality that shape each and every person’s unique identity.

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