Why is citizenship, your passport or originating from a country seen as a privilege?


Why is citizenship, your passport or originating from a country seen as a privilege?
Nationality is defined as a legal identification of a person in international law, establishing the person as a subject or national of a sovereign state. It affords the state’s jurisdiction over the person and affords the person the protection of that state against other states. ​

Why is having a certain nationality a privilege?

There is a hierarchy of nationalities where those nationalities that attribute more freedoms and rights are held at a higher level than others. Holding one or more of these nationalities is a privilege because you have more access in your country of origin and foreign countries. This nationality privilege means you have a nationality that results in more accessible access to employment, education, travel and healthcare​, and citizenship benefits such as the right to vote.

What is your privilege?

  • My passport allows me to travel around many parts of the world, and I generally have little concern about visa application processes when travelling.
  • I can vote, access public services and apply for government jobs in the country where I was born or have been naturalised.
  • I have never felt discriminated against, judged or denied work or housing because of national stereotypes linked with my nationality.
  • If I move abroad, I will be considered an expat rather than an immigrant in the host country.

The stats don’t lie:

  • 27% of African visitor visa requests made to the UK in the two years to September 2018 were refused, compared with the overall refusal rate of 12%. For both Middle Eastern and Asian applicants, the figure was 11%, while for North Americans, it was 4 % (Joint All-Party Parliamentary Group for Africa, 2019)
  • Around 60% of our lifetime income is determined by country ​
  • of citizenship (Milanovic, 2015)
  • Median of 33% of Europeans believe that it is very important for a person to be born in their country to be considered a true national (Pew Research, 2017)

What to do next?

Working towards creating a more equal society and workplace starts with recognising the ways in which we are privileged. Holding specific nationalities means that you have easier access to employment, education, travel and healthcare. Support foreign nationals when you have the opportunity (references, guidance, visa applications, etc.) Also consider offer opportunities to all nationalities, not just a selected few. If you’re interested in starting a journey to overhaul this imbalance then join the Privilege Project today.

Watch the recorded session on Nationality privilege from our summer event.