What Exactly Does Nationality Mean? Is American A Nationality?

There is a load of debate currently in terms of defining what ethnicity and nationality actually are. While it is easy considering the fact that in the USA, by American, it would mean that the person is a citizen, the case is not that simple.

In fact, the topic of is American a nationality is so common that you are bound to find it in every discussion forum. We even stumbled upon questions such as that. And that is where we decided to dive deeper into the topic.

Through our research, we gathered the knowledge of what nationality exactly means and what the USA people think about it. Additionally, we understood what ethnicity means in the states. And we are going to share all of that knowledge in this article, which will hopefully answer the question that you have on your mind.


In simple words, nationality describes the status of belonging to a particular nation. And that involvement of being a part of the nation is generally by birth. But does that mean the immigrants are not American? Well, not. As we mentioned, it is generally by birth, but it can be due to naturalization.

To understand the term better, you would need to know how different countries use the term for identification. In international law, the term would give a legal indication about a person. It establishes that particular person as a subject of a sovereign state.

Additionally, it would afford that specific person the protection of the state he/she belongs to against the other states. So, you can understand how much of an importance the term holds.

In fact, according to article number 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a person has all the right to a nationality. It also states that no person should be deprived of their nationality. And no one should be denied the case of having the right to change nationality.

What Is The Viewpoint Of Americans In Terms Of Nationality?

As you know by now, the USA is basically the melting pot of different races. There are thousands of different cultures. All these thousands of cultures combine into a large cauldron and become something that is stronger.

In a perfect world, the word American should state something like the steel of races. But multiculturalists would find it alarming. And they view the whole nationality thing like a mixed salad where there are tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, and other ingredients.

For that reason, you will find people adding a latter nationality. But the problem is that this deals a large blow to the cohesion of a nation. However, the great thing is that the American race is not static. It is always expanding and growing. There will always be new immigrants, which will make the country stronger than before.

Nonetheless, those new immigrants would have to be willing to become a part of the mix to get that effect. And the good part is that the native Americans are ready to accept it. That is why the thinking that someone can not do something because they are an immigrant is out of the equation now.

How Can One Become American?

Usually, when someone is born in the states, they get the right to state that their nationality is American. However, if that was the only way, there would not be a mixed salad in the USA, would it? There are other ways of claiming nationality. That is why the perspective of dual citizenship exists.

Nevertheless, immigrants can gain permanent residentship if they follow the legal rules. And these eligibility factors are as follows:

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • There must be a lawful permanent residence record of three or five years
  • Bear the ability to read, write, and most importantly, speak basic English
  • Requires to have continuous residence in the USA
  • Must have a physical presence in the states
  • Has to have good moral character
  • Demonstrate the understanding of the United States government
  • Bears the knowledge of the history of the United States
  • Must have loyalty to the constitution
  • Have to be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance

Upon fulfilling the eligibility factors mentioned above, one can lawfully become an American. And as you can see, nowhere in the factors is there a mention of being in a certain ethnic group. That means anyone and everyone can become a citizen of America.


More often, people would mix up the term ethnicity with nationality. Even though it is a basis of identification, in no way is it related to nationality. To better understand what we are referring to here, you must understand what does the term actually means.

In a nutshell, it refers to the person’s identity regarding the relationship they have with a particular cultural, religious, and social group. Many would refer to this term as an ancestral identity, and this thinking is right as well. Basically, it is the inherited status.

The way ethnicity work is by connecting to the descent, in other words, acquired traits of a certain group. These descent-based traits can be obtained through inheritance only. And ethnicity is a category of people, which is called ethnic group.

Nevertheless, the term ethnicity would only come into play when a person is distinct compared to others. So, if a person has dissimilarities in terms of common traditions, language, dialect, behavior, and culture, they would belong to a different ethnic group.

How One Gains An Identity Of An Ethnic Group?

There are certain criteria that determine ethnic identification. And they are as follows:

  • One must have the shared attributes of a certain group
  • The physical resemblance is not mandatory, but a particular group might have some similar physical traits
  • A person can gain the identity of an ethnic group based on the society they live in
  • The person must exhibit certain cultural expressions that will be similar to an ethnic group
  • One can gain the identification of an ethnic group being born in a society that consists of a particular ethnic people
  • No legal documents are required for ethnicity

Are Ethnicity And Nationality The Same Thing?

Not really. As we mentioned above, both are a form of identification, but they are not the same thing. They are different in many ways, and we are going to describe all of them in this segment.

Key Differences Between Ethnicity And Nationality

First of all, nationality is derived and dominated by geographical location. For a person to have a nationality, he/she must have citizenship of that nation. In contrast, ethnicity arises from the ethnic background of a person.

Secondly, ethnicity basically describes the ancestry and heritage of a person. Conversely, nationality is a legal identity. It is generally conferred to a person who is born in the nation or has claimed the identity by following and being eligible for the legal laws.

Additionally, one can determine a person’s ethnicity through dialect, food habits, culture, race, physical appearance, and so on. But to determine the nationality, one has to go through the origin, birthplace, or legal documents of a person.

Lastly, ethnicity denotes the person’s identity based on cultural inheritance and descent attributes. However, nationality is basically a membership of a nation. It reveals the relationship of a certain individual with the nation.

Is The Term Ethnicity Same As Race?

The case of ethnicity and race is the same as nationality. Even though it might give some form of identification, they are not the same thing. On the one hand, the term race gives the idea of a person based on distinctive physical traits. But for ethnicity, similar physical traits are not a must. 

In true essence, a race has the association of biology and physical characteristics. That includes skin color, the texture of the hair, the color of the hair, and many different physical traits. However, people of different races can have some of the same traits. But that does not mean that they are within the same race.

For example, Asian people usually have black hair. So does most of the American people. Does that mean they are within the same race? Not at all! So, you can understand how narrow the concept of race actually is.

That being said, ethnicity deals with a broader perspective. It deals with characteristics, morals, way of thinking, food habits, dialect, and other factors. Considering that, we can conclude that race and ethnicity are not really the same. They are different, but both can be used as a form of identification.

Final Words

To sum things up, in regards to the topic of is American a nationality, in a general sense, it is! However, there are plenty of factors that nationality deals with. And for a person to gain that national identification, they must check all of that factors.

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