Naturalisation refers to the obtaining of citizenship in a state by a non-national. Persons to whom the citizenship of a state is not ascribed at birth may be able to acquire it later in life through naturalisation. Rules governing the acquisition of citizenship, like those governing its ascription, differ from state to state and can be more or less restrictive. Naturalisation is an optional decision of the state, though all candidates meeting certain clearly specified conditions are naturalised.1 In some states naturalisation is perceived as involving not only a change in legal status, but also a change in nature, a change in political and cultural identity, a social transubstantiation that immigrants can have difficulty conceiving. The difference in policies and attitudes toward naturalisation can be reflected in the variance in naturalisation rates (percentage of migrants obtaining citizenship) in the different states.

The UN Convention of 1954 states that "[t]he Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalisation of stateless persons. They shall in particular make every effort to expedite naturalization proceedings and to reduce as far as possible the charges and costs of such proceedings." [Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, Art.32]

1 Brubaker, R. Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany.

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