What Are the Main Differences Between Residence & Citizenship?
For many people the word ‘citizenship’ conjures images of a strong national identity determined by birth, ethnicity, history, culture and upbringing – so the idea of a second citizenship may be foreign and difficult to grasp. However, in a legal sense, ‘citizenship’ indicates the relationship between an individual and a nation state. Normally, the individual is conferred protection by the state, in return for the fulfilment of certain obligations owed by the individual to the state. It is therefore possible to gain a second citizenship from another country if the second citizen meets the criteria set by that country’s government.
Residence and citizenship are two legal statuses that affect your ability to live and work in a country. While the two are closely related – and at times confused – there are fundamental differences between them.
Generally, when you are a legal resident of a country, you:
- Can live, work, travel or study within that country without restrictions (though this may depend on the conditions of your resident visa category)
- Retain your foreign passport, and hold an international travel document from your country of residence
- Must usually provide biometric information
- May leave and re-enter your country of residence, but you may at any point be denied re-entry by an Immigration Official should you have failed to fulfil any of the conditions attached to your residence status
- Must fulfil minimum stay requirements, or face losing your residence status
- Need to be free from serious criminal convictions, or risk losing your residence status
- May access more job opportunities, such as in the USA, where certain jobs require security clearance that only Green Card holders and US citizens can obtain
- Improve your naturalization eligibility, allowing you to apply for a citizenship later on
As a citizen, you can benefit from the unique rights and obligations that exist between a nation and its citizens. Generally, as a citizen you:
- Retain your citizenship for a lifetime
- Usually pass on your citizenship to your children
- Have all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities defined by your country’s law, such as the right to vote, participate in politics, work, access education, and obtain healthcare
- Need not fulfil any minimum stay requirements – you can be a citizen of a nation and never even set foot on its territory
- Can call upon your country for assistance and protection, and access any embassy, consulate, or other diplomatic establishment when travelling abroad
- Have stability and certainty
- Have the right not to be deprived of your nationality (according to Article 15 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
- Hold a passport identifying you as a citizen of your country and allowing you to travel visa-free to all the nations with whom your country has signed a relevant travel agreement
Many countries allow dual citizenship, meaning that you can hold multiple citizenships at once without having to abandon one citizenship in order to obtain another – and giving you the opportunity to be a citizen of the world. Therefore, while you are born a citizen of one nation, you can generally apply for second citizenship by descent, residence, or investment.