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Thread: Nationality VS Citizenship

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    Post Nationality VS Citizenship



    I had been wondering for some time whether there was a clear distinction between these two concepts, so I search the Web to find the answer. It seems that for many people (and me until recently), the two words are synonymous.

    However, from what I gathered in comparing various sources, nationality gives the right to live and work permanently in a country, and includes other rights, such as the right to have a passport issued by that country, the right of abode in that country's embassies, right of social security, right to exercise some legal or political professions (e.g magistrate, president of the country). Nationality may also include obligations, such as military service.

    By contrast, citizenship in itself does not give the right to live in a country (a visa or nationality is required for that), but only to vote at elections (sometimes also the right to be elected). Citizenship can be national (=nationwide), subnational (only in one state, region, province or municipality), or supranational (valid in several countries, like within the EU or Commonwealth).

    There are some cases of nationality without citizenship. For instance, until recently, people naturalised French could not vote for the first 5 or 10 years after taking the French nationality.

    But there are also cases of citizenship without nationality, which is much more common. For instance, foreigners in the Benelux, the 5 Nordic countries, some Swiss cantons, Portugal and New Zealand have the right to vote at some or all elections, and in some cases to be elected too. Nationals of Commonwealth countries living in the UK can aslo vote and be elected in the UK.

    In Japan, I think that only one town so far (in Shiga prefecture ?) has given the right to vote (but not to be elected) to permanent residents (only) at municipal elections (only). So 99.99% of foreigners in Japan do not have citizenship rights at all.

    Nationals of EU member-states all enjoy the rights given by nationality and citizenship in other EU countries, with some restrictions. Citizenship rights are limited to EU and local elections, and nationality rights do not include the right of social security (but many non-EU countries don't have any, anyway) or the obligation of military service (a good thing !).
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    Hmm.... thank you for the information. It's really interesting, and quite helpful. ^^
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    Maciamo, I like to mention something about the Commonwealth citizens having the right to vote and be elected in the UK. Canadians have NO more rights in the UK than an American or a Japanese. There is nothing a Canadian gets in the UK, the ease of abode or obtaining nationality, permanent residence, that an American or a Japanese could not get. I know Japanese Canadians who just used their Japanese passports to enter the UK, and they were given the same treatment from the British. Likewise, I know many American Canadians who used their yankee passports to enter the UK, and got exactly the same treatment as if they had with their Canadian if not better.

    Canada has the British queen on our money, but I say that Canada become a Republic at once as we get zero benefits in Britain. The only ones are those who have British relatives, but that benefit is extended by Lex Sanguinis not because of one is a Canadian.

    So please show me, concretely, how a Canadian gets any special treatment as a commonwealth citizen in the UK over other G8, non European, non Commonwealth countries? I don't mean something cheezy like having something symbolic like the commonwealth games. Or the right to wear a redcoat in the British army to be used as colonial cannonfodders, as anyone can join the French Foreign Legion.

    Which country in the EU is the easiest for a Canadian to get citizenship in, given he or she has no lex sanguinis ties to Europe. I got some Ukranian blood, but that won't help me get into the EU.

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    Nationality sometimes has the meaning of ethnic belonging to one country. Actually, the Chinese use the word "nationality" to refer to the various ethnic groups in the country (Han, Manchu, Mongol, Uyghur, Tibetan, etc.).

    I suppose that it is why American always talk of citizenship (as in "U.S. citizen") as opposed to nationality, because it might be confused with ethnicity, and that can be a problem in such an ethnically mixed country. Native Americans could on some level claim that they are the only "American nationals", in the sense of the word used in China or other Asian countries. Then, early European immigrants (mostly British, Irish and German) who settled on the East coast of the USA tend to refer to themselves as ethnically "American" in ancestry surveys, which further complicate things.

    However, this meaning of "nationality" has not been much in use in Europe since the end of WWI, because it recalls the nationalistic period of the late 19th and early 20th century (the so-called "Nation-states") that led to this tragic war. What's more, it does not make sense to associate a country with a single ethnic group, even in small countries. That is why "nationality" has acquired a purely political meaning in Europe nowadays.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 25-10-07 at 01:05.
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    I guess nationality and citizenship are two aspects of the same thing, the first the cultural one and the latter the legal one.
    "Citizenship" implies that you hold the passport of the country and have full civil rights of the respective country - you are able to participate in elections, you enjoy all services and duties and benefits that the state offers etc.
    "Nationality" implies that you consider yourself a member of the
    respective nation and also act according to the cultural habits and patterns of the nation. So, "Nationality" is a more abstract version of "national identity".
    Somebody who carries citizenship of a certain country does not neccessarily have the nationality (read: national identity) of that country - think of migrants' offsprings who might live in a country in the second or third generation but still have not been legally naturalized (though in these cases they often do have two national identities)

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    Nationality is purely philosophical, no? I mean, there's no documentation to prove that someone is a national AFAIK, only citizenship. If someone becomes naturalized in a country (ie. acquires citizenship), then they gain all the rights of both nationals and citizens, even though citizenship was all that was obtained, correct?

    The citizenship w/out nationality paragraph is eye opening. I had no idea that someone could vote in a country for which they are not a citizen. Where can US citizens vote, besides the US? Is there a site that summarizes which citizens can cross boundaries with their vote? And as a practical matter, why would a New Zealand citizen be able to vote in the UK?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jgombos View Post
    Nationality is purely philosophical, no? I mean, there's no documentation to prove that someone is a national AFAIK, only citizenship. If someone becomes naturalized in a country (ie. acquires citizenship), then they gain all the rights of both nationals and citizens, even though citizenship was all that was obtained, correct?
    This is not correct. Please re-read my first post. All nationals of EU countries have automatically EU citizenship, but not nationality. Citizenship give them the right to vote in any EU country (at local and European elections), but will not compell a Brit living in France to do military service in France. A brit naturalised French (so nationality this time) will have to do military service in France though.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    This is not correct. Please re-read my first post. All nationals of EU countries have automatically EU citizenship, but not nationality. Citizenship give them the right to vote in any EU country (at local and European elections), but will not compell a Brit living in France to do military service in France. A brit naturalised French (so nationality this time) will have to do military service in France though.
    I'm with jgombos on this. It's probably a matter of definitions, but what gives you the right to vote in local elections in an EU country is your passport from an EU country, and what obliges you to follow military service in France is your French passport, so in both cases a form of citizenship is decisive. In the example from Japan I guess people who are registered at the respective community have the right to vote in the local election, so again it's rather a matter of administration.

    Maybe an etymological view on these two terms help:
    citizenship: from latin civitas: organized and administered community (same root as city/cité/ciudad/città)
    nationality: from latin natio: origin, stock, descent, parentage
    Citizenship is a legal term and easily to pinpoint and it brings you right and obligations on various levels (like you said local, national, supranational), while nationality is being acquired by socialisation, it is a means of identification and doesn't bring any legal consequences for you.

    The UK is a good example: people there do have British citizenship, but most consider themselves as being of English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish (or Indian, Pakistani, Polish etc.) nationality.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Francomatto View Post
    I'm with jgombos on this. It's probably a matter of definitions, but what gives you the right to vote in local elections in an EU country is your passport from an EU country, and what obliges you to follow military service in France is your French passport, so in both cases a form of citizenship is decisive.
    So why is it that passports always indicate "nationality" and not citizenship ?

    And why is it that foreigners (with a non-European passport) who have stayed at least 5 years in the country can vote at local elections in some countries like Belgium ? Because they automatically receive citizen rights after 5 years of legal stay, even though they keep their nationality.

    Maybe an etymological view on these two terms help:
    citizenship: from latin civitas: organized and administered community (same root as city/cité/ciudad/città)
    nationality: from latin natio: origin, stock, descent, parentage
    Etymology has little to do with the actual modern meaning and usage. Otherwise it would be an absurdity to speak about EU citizenship or US citizens, as neither are cities.

    Citizenship is a legal term and easily to pinpoint and it brings you right and obligations on various levels (like you said local, national, supranational), while nationality is being acquired by socialisation, it is a means of identification and doesn't bring any legal consequences for you.
    Unfortunately this is not up to you to decide. Legislations refer to nationality when it comes to passport, naturalisation, visas, etc. I only know a few countries that make use of the word citizenship as a synonym for nationality in this case. I can think of the USA, the UK and China.

    China actually uses the word "nationality" for ethnico-linguistic groups (e.g. the Miao-Miao, Mongols, Han Chinese, Tibetans, Uyghurs...). The reason is that historically China has always consdered itself as the centre of the world, and in fact thought of itself as the civilised world. It has been an empire for most of its history, and empires comprise various (conquered) nations. Modern China still likes to think of itself as an empire by attributing various nationalities to its own people. By international standards this is not correct though (maybe a mistranslation).

    The UK also used to be an empire, ruling over half of the world. It is only natural that British citizens at the time be of various nationalities.

    The UK is a good example: people there do have British citizenship, but most consider themselves as being of English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish (or Indian, Pakistani, Polish etc.) nationality.
    The term UK itself means that the country is a union of nations, just like the EU. The United Kingdom is the union of 4 medieval countries : England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. We could add to this some dominions and commonwealth countries who still recognise the British monarch as their head of state (Gibraltar, Canada, Australia...).

    This is the reason why the term British citizenship is preferred to nationality. It is the same with the European Union. There is no EU nationality, but an EU citizenship, bringing together people of different nation-states.

    The USA is a bit like the EU in this case, except that its citizens came from all over the world as colonists and immigrants. The USA was one of the first countries to recognise dual citizenship to accommodate this huge diversity.

    But countries or unions of nations like the USA, the EU and the UK are all exceptions.

    I have seen passports from most developed countries, and all of them (including the USA and UK) use the term "nationality" instead of "citizenship".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    So why is it that passports always indicate "nationality" and not citizenship ?

    And why is it that foreigners (with a non-European passport) who have stayed at least 5 years in the country can vote at local elections in some countries like Belgium ? Because they automatically receive citizen rights after 5 years of legal stay, even though they keep their nationality.



    Etymology has little to do with the actual modern meaning and usage. Otherwise it would be an absurdity to speak about EU citizenship or US citizens, as neither are cities.



    Unfortunately this is not up to you to decide. Legislations refer to nationality when it comes to passport, naturalisation, visas, etc. I only know a few countries that make use of the word citizenship as a synonym for nationality in this case. I can think of the USA, the UK and China.

    China actually uses the word "nationality" for ethnico-linguistic groups (e.g. the Miao-Miao, Mongols, Han Chinese, Tibetans, Uyghurs...). The reason is that historically China has always consdered itself as the centre of the world, and in fact thought of itself as the civilised world. It has been an empire for most of its history, and empires comprise various (conquered) nations. Modern China still likes to think of itself as an empire by attributing various nationalities to its own people. By international standards this is not correct though (maybe a mistranslation).

    The UK also used to be an empire, ruling over half of the world. It is only natural that British citizens at the time be of various nationalities.



    The term UK itself means that the country is a union of nations, just like the EU. The United Kingdom is the union of 4 medieval countries : England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. We could add to this some dominions and commonwealth countries who still recognise the British monarch as their head of state (Gibraltar, Canada, Australia...).

    This is the reason why the term British citizenship is preferred to nationality. It is the same with the European Union. There is no EU nationality, but an EU citizenship, bringing together people of different nation-states.

    The USA is a bit like the EU in this case, except that its citizens came from all over the world as colonists and immigrants. The USA was one of the first countries to recognise dual citizenship to accommodate this huge diversity.

    But countries or unions of nations like the USA, the EU and the UK are all exceptions.

    I have seen passports from most developed countries, and all of them (including the USA and UK) use the term "nationality" instead of "citizenship".
    The trouble is, there is no clear internationally acknowledged distinction between "nationality" and "citizenship". It's true that passports use the term "nationality", and IMO "citizenship" would be the better term there. It's not up to me nor you to decide, but we can have an opinion on it, can't we?

    My reason for defining "citizenship" as a legal term is that it is a more technical term and that goes well with the etymologically original meaning.
    The term "nationality" is harder to grasp, as there is no clear definition of the term "nation" either.

    What is your definition of "nation"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Francomatto View Post
    What is your definition of "nation"?
    Without thinking too hard I would say : all the people living under a common state (common government, laws, education system and so on).

    The 19th-centuty understanding was people speaking a same language living on a common historical territory.

    Whichever definition we choose though, Belgium or Switzerland are not really nations, as they are both federal countries (with completely separate education systems in Belgium) with 3 or 4 official languages clearly separated by regions. I guess we could regard them as nations if a substantial number of people spoke 2 or 3 of the official languages. This is partly the case. However, in Belgium, English becomes more and more the communication language between Dutch, French and German speakers.
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    4 months delay! sorry

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Without thinking too hard I would say : all the people living under a common state (common government, laws, education system and so on).
    So according to that definition nation = people of one state? So what is a nation state, then?
    Were Kosovo Albanians part of the Serbian nation until they seceded?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    The 19th-centuty understanding was people speaking a same language living on a common historical territory.

    Whichever definition we choose though, Belgium or Switzerland are not really nations, as they are both federal countries (with completely separate education systems in Belgium) with 3 or 4 official languages clearly separated by regions. I guess we could regard them as nations if a substantial number of people spoke 2 or 3 of the official languages. This is partly the case. However, in Belgium, English becomes more and more the communication language between Dutch, French and German speakers.
    Are there any Swiss here who can enlighten us whether they feel being part of a Swiss nation or not?
    Given that every person has a national identity, what would then be the one of a Swiss individual? A canton identity? An identity of the respective language group they belong to? Do Swiss people from Ticino have an Italian identity?
    As a Belgian, what would you name as your nation? Belgium? Flanders/Wallonia? Europe? Your province?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Francomatto View Post
    As a Belgian, what would you name as your nation? Belgium? Flanders/Wallonia? Europe? Your province?
    Regardless of whether Belgians feel closer to their language group, province or the whole of Europe, it is generally accepted here that when we talk about "the nation" we mean Belgium and not Flanders, Wallonia or Europe. If the country splits then there will be 2 or 3 nations instead of one.

    If the passport or ID card shows "Belgian" as nationality, then the nation is Belgium. If it shows Brussels, then it is Brussels. As simple as that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Regardless of whether Belgians feel closer to their language group, province or the whole of Europe, it is generally accepted here that when we talk about "the nation" we mean Belgium and not Flanders, Wallonia or Europe. If the country splits then there will be 2 or 3 nations instead of one.
    So, you think that "nation" = "state"? Any state does create a nation by issuing passports? I repeat my earlier question, how are nation states distinguished from other states?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    If the passport or ID card shows "Belgian" as nationality, then the nation is Belgium. If it shows Brussels, then it is Brussels. As simple as that.
    My German passport says I'm German. My Italian passport says I'm Italian. Both say that I am a citizen of the EU. By German ID card says that my Staatsangehoerigkeit (which literally translates as "citizenship", so they didn't use "Nationalitaet" here) is German, too. So what am I now?

    Let's throw another useful term into the discussion: National identity.
    Where does it come from, what use does it have today, how can it be influenced or changed?

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    My German passport says I'm German. My Italian passport says I'm Italian. Both say that I am a citizen of the EU. By German ID card says that my Staatsangehoerigkeit (which literally translates as "citizenship", so they didn't use "Nationalitaet" here) is German, too. So what am I now?

    Let's throw another useful term into the discussion: National identity.
    Where does it come from, what use does it have today, how can it be influenced or changed?
    Citizenship = Legal Identity

    Nationality = How other people describe you.

    National Identity = Something you aspire to, or at least a collection of attributes you share with others.

    What do you think?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Francomatto View Post
    So, you think that "nation" = "state"? Any state does create a nation by issuing passports? I repeat my earlier question, how are nation states distinguished from other states?
    What's a nation-state according to you ? The term was used in the late 19th-century when people thought that ethnicity and language were linked. This conception is seriously outdated (and scientifically wrong).

    State has many meanings. A country can be one state, but it can be divided in many states too if it is federal. Nationality applies to the higher level of government in case of a federal country.

    My German passport says I'm German. My Italian passport says I'm Italian. Both say that I am a citizen of the EU. By German ID card says that my Staatsangehoerigkeit (which literally translates as "citizenship", so they didn't use "Nationalitaet" here) is German, too. So what am I now?
    Nothing prevents you from having more than one nationality. Your are officially Italian, German and European.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starship View Post
    Citizenship = Legal Identity

    Nationality = How other people describe you.

    National Identity = Something you aspire to, or at least a collection of attributes you share with others.

    What do you think?
    That's not how it is officially described by governments worldwide. National Identity and nationality are synonymous. Citizenship is the right to live and vote in one specific country. Legal identity only means "juristic person".

    It's not my opinion or someone else's opinion. It's how these words are described by dictionaries and used in politics. It's not up for discussion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starship View Post
    Citizenship = Legal Identity

    Nationality = How other people describe you.

    National Identity = Something you aspire to, or at least a collection of attributes you share with others.

    What do you think?
    I agree, but I'd say that nationality is not only how others describe you, but especially how you feel yourself. I'd go with Maciamo that nationality and national identity are basically the same thing.
    Your definition of national identity is not too far away from mine (see below)

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    Country: Germany



    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    What's a nation-state according to you ? The term was used in the late 19th-century when people thought that ethnicity and language were linked. This conception is seriously outdated (and scientifically wrong).

    State has many meanings. A country can be one state, but it can be divided in many states too if it is federal. Nationality applies to the higher level of government in case of a federal country.

    Nothing prevents you from having more than one nationality. Your are officially Italian, German and European.
    According to me, there are still nation states today, not in the 19th century concept.
    The thesis is the following: In medieval kingdoms, states were kept together by force. The king owned all land, and with the land he owned all people that were living on it regardless of their language and culture.
    When the concept of modern democracy came up in the 18th century, power shifted from the monarch to the people. Now in modern democracies people elect their representatives into goverment, but first people have to establish who belongs to them and who not. It's more or less a sociological process: If "we" elect our representatives, we have to create a "we" first. And that is how the nation comes into the game: the nation is a more or less random group of people who perceive themselves as one unit. Whether this definition is picked by language or by culture or by ethnicity or by history is secondary.
    In other words: While in feudal monarchies and dictatorships countries were held together by force, in modern democracies they are held together by nations.
    This defines a nation as a group of people that share
    a) a common identity with common symbols (language, heroes, events in history, places etc.)
    b) a defined territory
    c) a will of political self-determination to a certain degree (not necessarily total political independence)

    National identities aren't static but change over years and decades. Let's see if the Koreas will be able to reunify one day. Had the GDR existed for ten or twenty years more, it might very well have been that mentality and culture and identity had drifted that far away from each other in both Germanies so that the separation could have been irreparable.

    Furthermore, countries whose people do not form one nation will have trouble with political stability. Examples:
    - As long as the Serbian identity is tied to Slav ethnicity, the Serbian language and the orthodox religion and territory, they will never be able to see Kosovo Albanians as being part of the Serbian nation and vice versa, and there will always be trouble between these two.
    - Belgium: Flemish and Walloon identities are stronger than Belgian identities, so there's mistrust between Flemings and Walloons, which perfectly shows in the governmental crisis in the past year.
    - Switzerland: basically everyone in the country feels Swiss, read: identifies with the Swiss cross, with William Tell, with the Ruetli Oath, with other symbols like being multilingual, banking, cheese, chocolate, cantons, neutrality or direct democracy. That is why Switzerland is one nation despite speaking many languages and having different cultures, and because Switzerland has a strong national identity it is a stable democracy.
    - The same goes for the USA: Despite the cultural and ethnic background, US-Americans identify with the Statue of Liberty, with the Dollar, with democracy itself, with freedom, the Stars and Stripes and all the other US-Symbols.
    - Most African countries are no nation states, at least no traditional ones where the nation existed before the state. States do create national identities over decades (common education system, common TV shows, common music stars, common politicians etc.), but it takes time, a lot of time. Those countries in Africa where people still feel connected to their tribe rather than to the whole country are the ones that suffer from war and corruption (D.R. Congo, Rwanda), while the stable ones all managed to create some sort of "we" above tribal lines, for example Botswana or Ghana.
    - The list of countries that are labile because of national un-identification is long: Bosnia, Lebanon, Georgia, China, Iraq, Ukraine, Sri Lanka etc etc. It'll be interesting to see the further development in Russia, being the last one of the big European multiethnic states,

    Think about it: what is it that makes you being part of your nation? What is it that you share with them that you don't share with others?
    Is it simply your passport? Is it your language? Is it your culture? Is it history?

  20. #20
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    Country: Belgium - Brussels



    Francomatto, I understand your point about nation states. However the sense of "we" rarely matches exactly the borders of modern countries. Here is why :

    1) Nowadays many Europeans can identify with the EU flag, EU institutions, European values, common history, the euro, etc. But they also identify with their member-state's. At what level is the nation state ? Both, I guess (at least for those people who associate with both).

    2) In Germany, Italy or Spain, many people feel as much attached to their region than to the whole country. In Belgium it is often more to the region. Again, which of them is the nation ? Germany or, say, Bavaria ? Italy or Sicily ? Spain or Catalonia ?

    3) It is true that almost all Americans feel American. But a large part of the population is foreign born and still feels strongly attached to their country of birth. These people have two nations, two nationalities. Contrarily to Europeans who have superimposed "levels" of nations (region, country, EU), for naturalised immigrants there is no geographic superimposition.

    4) Many people nowadays don't care about national symbols anymore. Few Europeans would die for their "nation" or government. Few can really say they "love" their country or that they dream of working for the state. The late 19th-century nationalistic bureaucracy is long gone. Patriotism is almost a relic of the past in Europe. Borders don't exist anymore and we live better this way. We gave up major national symbols like our currency or our army for a common one with 27 countries (or more with NATO). That's why true nation-states don't exist anymore (in the EU).
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    Country: Canada-British Columbia



    True a Canadian citizenship alone doesn't give special treatment in the UK. But if you immigrate to the UK if you live there for a year and are a Canadian citizen and national you can vote in the UK. But a Canadian citizen born in the USA couldn't. Because they are not a Canadian national. My sister in law was born and raised in China. She is now a Canadian citizen via her marriage to my brother. Canadian's get special treatment immigration wise in the U.S. NAFTA visa's are very easy to get. But since my SIL has Chinese national in her Canadian passport, the USA can make her get a visa for entry! Sometimes to get things like the right to vote, etc. Depend on both nationality and citizenship.

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