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Nationality is, in English usage, a legal relationship existing between a person and a state. The person becomes subject to the state's jurisdiction, even while not on the state's territory; in exchange the subject becomes entitled to the state's protection, and to other rights as well.
The nationals of a state generally possess the right of abode in the territory of the state they are nationals of, though there are some exceptions (e.g., British Nationality Law).
Nationality must be distinguished from citizenship: citizens have rights to participate in the political life of the state of which they are a citizen, such as by voting or standing for election; while nationals need not have these rights, though normally they do.
Traditionally under international law, determining who its nationals are was the exclusive competence of the state in question. However there were nonetheless many similarities in the laws of each nation, and today the law of nationality is increasingly coming under regulation, e.g., by the various conventions on statelessness, and the European Convention on Nationality.
Some countries do not permit dual nationality while others only allow a very limited form of dual citizenship (e.g. Indian nationality law). A person who is not a national of any state is referred to as a stateless person.
The nationality of a legal person (e.g., a corporation) is generally the state under whose laws the legal person is registered.
In Central and Eastern Europe, as well as some other areas of the world, the cognates of nationality is understood as a synonym of ethnicity, i.e., the belonging to a nation — a grouping based rather on cultural self-determination then on relations with a state. For example many people would say they are Kurds, i.e., of Kurdish nationality, despite Kurdistan is no Kurdish state. In the context of the Soviet Union and of former Yugoslavia, nationality is used as translation of the Russian and Serbian terms used for ethnic groups within a country.
Similarly, the nationalities of China are ethnic groups.
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