A citizen is defined as a legal member of a state with full constitutional or legal rights in the country in which he or she resides. While an alien or a non-citizen is any individual who is not a national of a State in which he or she is present.
Citizens vs. Foreigners (Non-Citizens) – The Differences
There are certain differences between a citizen and a non-citizen (or an alien).
A citizen is a full member of the state. On the other hand, an alien is a person who resides in a country other than his own and is therefore not a full member of the country of his residence.
While a citizen automatically acquires the citizenship of his country by virtue of his being born in the country, an alien can only become a citizen through a process of naturalization and registration. Unfortunately, an application by a foreigner for naturalization may be rejected by the government of the country of his domicile.
As a full member of the state, a citizen enjoys full political rights. He can vote and be voted for and he can aspire to any political office in his country. Although a non-citizen enjoys certain civil liberties such as freedom of association and freedom of movement, he does not enjoy full political rights. An alien, for example, cannot contest an elective post. In some countries such Nigeria and Ghana, a non-citizen cannot even be registered as a voter.
A citizen’s rights are natural or inherent in him. They are part of him and cannot be taken away from him without due process. For example, a citizen cannot be deported to another country. A noncitizen can be deported or expelled even on flimsy grounds. For instance, the Babangida Government deported Dr. Partrick Wilmot, a Sociology lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in the late 1980’s on the ground that he was teaching what he was not supposed to teach (whatever that means). Wilmot’s criticism of certain unpopular government policies might not have gone down well with top government officials.
A citizen’s citizenship cannot be revoked even if he commits a crime, as it is not a privileged status. But the citizenship of a naturalized Citizen can be revoked if he is convicted of a serious crime. In short, a naturalized citizen’s enjoyment of citizenship is subject to good behaviour.
A citizen owes allegiance to his country of birth but the loyalty of an alien is usually to his country of origin.
It is possible for a citizen to enjoy immunity from legal regulations in some cases whereas an alien is subject to close regulation by law enforcement agents. In Cameroun, every non-national is required to obtain a pass which legitimizes his residence in the country. Nevertheless, every alien must register with the Interior Ministry and foreigners are excluded from taking up certain jobs.
Foreigners generally live under a state of fear (fear of arrest, fear of mob attack, fear of destruction of property etc), but citizens generally have a greater sense of security. Several foreigners (especially Arabs and Muslims) living in the United States were, for example, arrested and harassed after the attack on, the World Trade Centre in New York by terrorists on 11th September, 2001.
Finally, the laws of the state generally discriminate in favour of the citizens when it comes to public service employment and admission to the professions. It is, for example, unthinkable that foreigners will be recruited to fill top civil service positions inNigeria when there are several highly-qualified and experienced Nigerians. In other words, preference is usually given to citizens in public (and even private) sector recruitment.
Professional bodies such as those of lawyers, doctors and accountants usually endeavour to maintain international standards. Nevertheless, citizens usually constitute a significant majority of members of these professional associations largely because of the nature of the laws setting up the bodies.