Posted on August 26, 2015

What Do Other Countries’ Constitutions Say About Birthright Citizenship?

Scott Bomboy, Yahoo! News, August 26, 2015


So how do other countries deal with the complicated issue of citizenship for the children of non-citizens? In at least 30 countries, birthright citizenship is permitted under their constitutions or their laws.

If you are curious about the constitutions of these countries and their citizenship provisions, you can use the Constitution Center’s new Constitutional Rights: Origins and Travels feature to see the exact wording. Just click on the term “Birthright Citizenship” on the right side of the “Rights Around The World” page.

In general, birthright citizenship is common among Western Hemisphere countries and uncommon in other parts of the world. The political fact checking site PolitiFact says about 33 countries have some type of birthright citizenship law on the books, with many enshrined in their constitutions. (Canada uses its statutes to make birthright citizenship a right.)

For example, Mexico’s constitution states that citizens are “those born in the territory of the Republic, regardless of the nationality of their parents.” Title II of Brazil’s constitution has similar language: “Brazilians are by birth those in the Federative Republic of Brazil, even though of foreign parents, provided they are not in the service of their country.”

In Europe, Africa and Asia, constitutions specify that the nations’ laws determine birthright citizenship. France’s constitution reflects many of the broad provisions that grant lawmakers the power to determine citizenship: “Statutes shall determine the nationality, the status and capacity of persons.” Likewise in Indonesia, its constitution specifies that, “matters concerning citizens and residents shall be regulated by the law.” And South Africa specifies that “national legislation must provide for the acquisition, loss and restoration of citizenship.”

Some North African and Middle Eastern nations clearly restrict citizenship to people who have at least one parent who is a legal citizen of that country. For example, Egypt’s constitution says that “citizenship is a right to anyone born to an Egyptian father or an Egyptian mother.”

The situation in Europe is similar. In 2012, the Law Library of Congress looked at birthright citizenship in major European Union nations. In most cases, birthright citizenship was tied to the nationality of a child’s parents, requiring at least one parent to be a citizen of a country where a child was born. Citizenship was granted, with conditions, to children who were abandoned by their parents at birth.