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Perhaps the simplest definition of citizenship is to say that a citizen of an nation is someone who enjoys all the rights, privileges and protections of that nation while also undertaking certain responsibilities to defend and participate in the public life of that nation. US Citizenship and Immigration Services, in its publications for individuals going through the naturalization process, often defines US citizenship in terms of the specific rights and responsibilities which define it.

There are two ways to become a US citizen:
By operation of law – Where some provision of US law automatically makes someone a citizen without the person needing to do anything further; and
Through Naturalization – The process of applying to the US government for the benefit of US citizenship.

Most individuals physically born in the US, with very few exceptions, are automatically US citizens by operation of law.

Not to be a US citizen, but they often need to do something further to be able to prove that they are a US citizen (in other words, to obtain documentation of their US citizenship). If physically in the US, the person can simply apply for a US passport – but they would need to provide evidence that they qualify under the law which they claim grants them citizenship. Alternatively, they can apply to USCIS for a Certificate of Citizenship, providing the same types of evidence.