What is a U.S. National?

All U.S. citizens are U.S. nationals, but there are some U.S. nationals who are not U.S. citizens. Therefore, this article discusses only U.S. nationals that are NOT U.S. citizens.


A U.S. national is a person born in or having ties with “an outlying possession of the United States” which, as of 2019, refers only to 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) were U.S. nationals. However, presently, 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 citizenship was never accorded to them.

Rights and Restrictions

U.S. nationals cannot vote in any election or hold an elected office.


  • Allowed to work and reside anywhere in the U.S. without restrictions.
  • Eligible to apply for a U.S. passport just like U.S. citizens. In fact, there is no difference between the passport for a U.S. national and a U.S. citizen. Both of them mention the “Nationality – USA”.
  • Eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization under the same rules as other permanent residents.

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