I have some doubts on the definitions of US national and US citizenship.

Let's suppose: A man was born in Los Angeles, CA. So he was a US national and US citizen. When he was 18 years old, he gave up his US citizenship, and obtained Chinese citizenship. Then he is no longer a US citizen, but is he still a US national? Is he required a US visa if he wants to travel in US?

  • 1
    Note that in order to lose U.S. citizenship, he would need to actually apply to the U.S. consulate to renounce citizenship, get interviewed, and get approved. Otherwise, he is still a U.S. citizen.
    – user102008
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 20:57
  • @user102008 That's not entirely true. He could do any of several expatriating acts with the intention of losing his citizenship. The US government could recognize the loss of citizenship through a consular application or a court decision.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 12:44
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    @phoog: But it's very difficult to prove honest intention of losing citizenship, unless it's done in the presence of a U.S. government official, away from other sources of influence.
    – user102008
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 18:37
  • @user102008 But if the party who performed the expatriating act is the party trying to prove intention, I wouldn't call that difficult. If the party swore as part of a consular application or court action that the act was undertaken with the intention of losing citizenship, that would presumably be sufficient. The citizenship would have been terminated as of the expatriating act, not requiring the presence of the gov't official for the termination of the citizenship.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 19:07

6 Answers 6


From immihelp.com:

U.S. National

All U.S. citizens are U.S. nationals, but there are some who are U.S. nationals but are not U.S. citizens.


U.S. national is a person born in or having ties with "an outlying possession of the United States" which is as of 2005, only American Samoa and Swains Island. Additionally, it also includes those individuals born abroad to two U.S. national parents, or those born abroad to one alien parent and one U.S. national parent. Additionally, there is a residency requirement for the parents of the child prior to birth in order to transmit U.S. nationality.

Past U.S. nationals

In the past, those who were born in Guam (1898-1950), Puerto Rico (1898-1917), the U.S. Virgin Islands (1917-1927) or the Philippines (1898-1946) where U.S. nationals. However, now those who are born in Guam, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands are full U.S. citizens, and the Philippines is an independent country and the citizenship was never accorded to them.

As far as I understand, he is no longer a US national and therefore he will need a visa to travel to USA.

  • Your 2nd part of the definition is not correct.
    – NickNo
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 13:18
  • @NickNo which part do you mean?
    – Dirty-flow
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 13:59
  • These definitions appear to be in line with the material I've reviewed with the applicable US laws. (Not a summary, but the actual laws.)
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 20:10
  • @Dirty-flow I made a mistake, you are fine since you use US national and not US citizen describing the parents of children born outside USA.
    – NickNo
    Commented Jun 20, 2014 at 16:00

A "US National" is a legal term and is so defined in 8 U.S.C. §1408

8 U.S.C. §1408 Definition of U.S. National

...the following shall be nationals, but not citizens, of the United States at birth:

(1) A person born in an outlying possession of the United States on or after the date of formal acquisition of such possession;

(2) A person born outside the United States and its outlying possessions of parents both of whom are nationals, but not citizens, of the United States, and have had a residence in the United States, or one of its outlying possessions prior to the birth of such person;

(3) A person of unknown parentage found in an outlying possession of the United States while under the age of five years, until shown, prior to his attaining the age of twenty-one years, not to have been born in such outlying possession; and

(4) A person born outside the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a national, but not a citizen, of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than seven years in any continuous period of ten years—

(A) during which the national parent was not outside the United States or its outlying possessions for a continuous period of more than one year, and

(B) at least five years of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years.



IRS Definition of US National

An individual who owes his sole allegiance to the United States, including all U.S. citizens, and including some individuals who are not U.S. citizens. For tax purposes the term "U.S. national" refers to individuals who were born in American Samoa or were born in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands who have chosen to be treated as U.S. nationals and not as U.S. citizens.

So US Nationals are people born in American Samoa or Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands who decided that they don't want to be citizens of the united states. They refuse, and so based on that voluntary choice they become US Nationals. They can still get a US Passport, they can go to US and live there and get a job as a US Citizen. However they can not vote in National Elections. So US Nationals can't vote in National elections but besides that have the same abilities as US Citizens.



Your Question

Giving up the citizenship of US means that the person is now considered a Chinese National, and would be treated by passport control the same as any other citizen of PRC coming for a visit, or on business and the will require a visa from a US Consulate in China to even board an airplane to fly to the US from China.

Since the definition of US National involves being born on 2 islands outside US mainland, while your friend was born in LA, they were considered a native born US citizen until the moment they gave up their citizenship and passport. From that moment on they became a citizen of China.

  • 1
    @corsiKa: "Second kid was born outside the US, that kid is a US national who is also eligible for citizenship if she declares it." This is wrong. That child is a U.S. citizen automatically (and involuntarily) at birth. There is no such thing as getting citizenship by "declaring it".
    – user102008
    Commented Jun 21, 2014 at 1:52
  • 1
    @corsiKa: "When she receives her citizenship papers, the effective date will be whenever we get the papers done, not from birth." Nope, you are wrong. It will from be the date of birth. Unless you are talking about the N-600K process, which is an expedited naturalization process where the child goes to the U.S. to take an oath, in which case the child is not a U.S. national either. This is factual and not subject to interpretation.
    – user102008
    Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 18:04
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    @corsiKa: "I have a friend who didn't get his paperwork done before he turned 18 (never occured to him he had to) and now he is no longer eligible to be a us citizen." That is not possible if his parent satisfied the residency requirements for transmitting citizenship at birth like you. If his parent satisfied the requirements, he is a U.S. citizen at birth, and even if he has never applied for anything, he can just apply for a U.S. passport at any time, even at 40. The only case when 18 matters is if his parent doesn't satisfy the residency requirements, and he is not a U.S. national at birth
    – user102008
    Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 18:07
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    @user102008 If a US Citizen parent meets the criteria, the child is automatically a US citizen at birth. All that needs to be done is to verify the US Citizen parent's eligibility via for DS-2029 ( Application for Consular Report of Birth Abroad ). This automatic transmission of citizenship from parent to child expires when the child becomes a legal adult at age 18. At that point the only way to get citizenship is throuogh Naturalization and requires a visa + 5 year residency in USA as is for any immigrant.
    – NickNo
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 2:45
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    @NickNo: Yes, the child is automatically a U.S. citizen at birth. It does not depend on anything else. The child does not lose U.S. citizenship at 18 or any other age.
    – user102008
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 2:56

Flow in and out of the US is controlled by the Department of Homeland Security. They define a national to be:

National - A person owing permanent allegiance to a state.

It does not say that that permanent allegiance must be singular. That is, it doesn't restrict you to having allegiance to only one state.

However, I think it's pretty clear that renouncing your citizenship carries with it the weight of renouncing your allegiance.

Note that the definition of a US national for tax purposes and for visa purposes may be different.

  • 1
    "My youngest daughter (only 2 years old) does not yet have her US citizenship, but she is considered a US national" This is not possible. Your youngest daughter is either automatically (and involuntarily) a U.S. citizen at birth, or not a U.S. national. There is no way she can be a non-citizen U.S. national, because none of her parents are non-citizen U.S. nationals (you said in a comment that you're a U.S. citizen).
    – user102008
    Commented Jun 21, 2014 at 1:55
  • 1
    "See clause 4 in the link for why she is considered a national." That clause doesn't apply, because it requires one parent to be "a national, but not a citizen, of the United States". She doesn't have such a parent.
    – user102008
    Commented Jun 21, 2014 at 1:56
  • 2
    It doesn't matter who you've "been over this" with. The law is very clear. Your daughter is automatically and involuntarily a U.S. citizen at birth. There is no choice, and no need to do anything for this to happen. She may have no proof of citizenship until she applies for one -- but she is still a U.S. citizen according to U.S. law.
    – user102008
    Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 18:51
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    Sometimes these officers try to "dumb down" the law in terms of misconceptions people hold, but if he says your daughter is not automatically a citizen or has the choice to not be a citizen, he is absolutely wrong. INA 301 (8 USC 1401) is very clear. "The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth". Nowhere does it say these people have a choice or can "declare" not to be U.S. citizens.
    – user102008
    Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 19:48
  • 3
    There is no subjective semantics that can be disagreed on. Look anywhere about information on INA 301 or acquisition of citizenship to children born abroad. e.g. travel.state.gov/content/travel/english/legal-considerations/… and uscis.gov/policymanual/HTML/… Citizenship is automatic and involuntary at birth. People who do not get citizenship at birth do not have nationality either.
    – user102008
    Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 18:15

The answer is NO, he is not a U.S. national.

When you say "give up his U.S. citizenship", what is actually happening is he is giving up his U.S. nationality. He is giving up U.S. nationality according to 8 USC 1481(a)(5):

(a) A person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voluntarily performing any of the following acts with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality—

(5) making a formal renunciation of nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States in a foreign state, in such form as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State;

Giving up U.S. nationality also causes him to not have U.S. citizenship, because U.S. citizens must be U.S. nationals.

There is no provision in the current law for loss of U.S. citizenship apart from the loss of U.S. nationality.

(Though as an interesting historical note, there was a situation when someone could give up U.S. citizenship but keep U.S. nationality: Existing residents of the Northern Mariana Islands gained U.S. citizenship in 1986 under section 301 of the CNMI Covenant with the U.S. Under section 302, people who gained citizenship under section 301 could choose to become non-citizen U.S. nationals within 6 months of the 1986 date, or 6 months of turning 18, whichever was later. The choosing period has long passed for any eligible person, and it does not apply to the OP's example which is someone who was a citizen at birth.)


Under the new American laws. Any person who gave up there U.S. citizenship. Can no longer enter America. So I do not think He can get a visa to come to America. These laws have been passed in the last 2 years under B.O.

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    Wrong. They have to qualify to for a visa (or visa waiver) just like any other non-citizen. If he qualifies, he can enter under those visa conditions. Maybe that's what you meant?
    – ouflak
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 0:00

i am late to this thread. The outlying territories only allow a person to be a non citizen national unless they apply for US CITIZENSHIP. People born in the continental 48 states have DUAL citizenship status...they are a non citizen national (state national) and a US CITIZEN status, which is NOT the same as a citizen of the United States of America. He need not renounce his US CITIZENSHIP to declare he is a state national...he is both. All people who are both can "travel" in and out of both of these statuses, while maintaining their rights in the 13 amendments prior to the 14th, where legal fictions were created as US CITIZEN that has priveleges and immunities.


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