What is National Status (Non-Citizen)?

A United States National (non-citizen) is a native of an American territorial possession.  Nationals are entitled to all of the legal protection a U.S. citizens would have but do not have the complete political rights of a U.S. citizen.

National Status and Citizenship


While all U.S. citizens are U.S. nationals, not every U.S. national is a U.S. citizen.  Very few fall into the category of non-citizen U.S. national as defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act.  Currently, only those born or with ties to the outlying U.S. possessions of American Samoa and Swains Island are born as non-citizen United States nationals.  The same applies for those born outside of these possessions but born to one or more non-citizen national parent as long as a residency requirement is met. 

Non-citizen nationals are allowed to reside and work in the United States without restrictions.  They are given U.S. passports with a special endorsement stating that the holder is a U.S. national and not a U.S. citizen.  A non-citizen national may apply for citizenship under the same rules as legal permanent residents. 

Although non-citizen nationals are protected by and swear allegiance to the United States, they are not granted the same rights and benefits as full citizens.  Since nationals are not citizens, they cannot vote for the election of federal politicians such as a congressman or president. Instead, nationals vote for a delegate to send to the U.S. House of Representatives.  This representative provides input but cannot vote on House affairs. Non-citizen nationals are also protected by the United States Bill of Rights on top of the laws of their home government.

Concerning taxation, non-citizen nationals are exempt from paying a federal income tax or taxes to the federal government on wealth accrued within the territory.  Territories, commonwealths, and possessions may, however, implement taxation plans which mirror those of the United States. They also receive economic assistance through some, but not all, national benefit programs or services such as Social Security.

List of United States Commonwealths:

  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Puerto Rico

List of United States Territories:

  • Guam
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • American Samoa
  • Swains Island