Citizenship is a relation between an individual and the government, community or other organisation that the person belongs to. It may be a political, social or civil status and varies significantly from one society to another.
The concept of citizenship emerged in the ancient world and has a long history. In the early city-states of ancient Greece, citizens were regarded as the members of a small organic community (polites polites) within which they had to comply with rules and responsibilities.
They were considered to have a special and higher status than non-citizens such as women, slaves or resident foreigners. They were expected to contribute to the political life of their polis and participate in its decisions.
These obligations were often linked to everyday life in the polis and, in this sense, citizenship was a part of one’s daily activity and constituted an important aspect of a person’s identity.
In modern societies, a person’s citizenship is typically granted on the basis of descent or nationality and may also be acquired through naturalization. This form of citizenship has been influenced by the liberal model and its associated understanding of law and politics.
It is a right or privilege which allows an individual to participate in the political life of a community and to receive legal protection from the state. This includes the ability to vote in elections and participate in public deliberation.
A person can become a citizen by birth or through descent from a parent who is a citizen of the country. They can also become a citizen by marriage or through citizenship applications.
Some countries, such as the United States, grant citizenship based on family relationships. This is known as jus sanguinis.
Alternatively, they can grant citizenship based on the individual’s residence in the country. This is called jus soli and, unlike jus sanguinis, is not restricted to descendants of a particular family.
In addition, they can grant citizenship based on the ancestry of the parents and grandparents, and these are sometimes granted without a requirement for application.
The rights of citizenship can be protected by legislation, which may also limit the ability to acquire them. This legislation can include restrictions on immigration, as well as measures to redress discrimination against citizens of certain races or genders.
For example, the UK government limits the number of immigrants whose immigration is regulated by citizenship criteria to a fixed rate. In other countries, it is possible to obtain citizenship on the basis of ancestry and/or membership in a community.
This can help to generate desirable feelings of identity and belonging among people who are new to a community, which can increase the level of civic participation.
Some governments, such as the UK, have developed a system of citizenship education for children in schools. This aims to encourage them to participate in the political life of their country and to develop their sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of their communities.
Moreover, some governments also have a policy of encouraging voluntary and unpaid activity in their communities, which can be described as active citizenship. This can be in the form of volunteering, economic participation or taking part in public or social activities which improve the lives of others.