top of page
  • Admin

Nationality Under International Law


It has been shown that states are free to attribute their nationality to whomever they choose on the basis of various modes, with no, or perhaps very few, exceptions. It is an accepted general principle of law that determinations of nationality are, for the purposes of international law, within the domain reserved to each state’s municipal law, basically a reflection of state sovereignty within the system of international law and relations.

  • The general rule in relation to attribution and recognition of nationality on the international plane is found in Article 1 of the 1930 Hague Convention: It is for each State to determine under its own law who are its nationals. This law shall be recognized by other States in so far as it is consistent with international conventions, international custom, and the principles of law generally recognized with regard to nationality.

  • A related issue is when states agree among themselves to treat their own nationals as aliens, in certain circumstances, when they are dual or multiple nationals. For example, Australia entered into a Consular Treaty with Hungary that was accompanied by an Exchange of Notes according to which Hungarian-Australian dual nationals will be regarded as Australians by Hungary if they enter that country on Australian passports with visas for temporary visits, and vice-versa.

Other Considerations of Recognition of Nationality and the “Nottebohm” Case

The Nottebohm Case (Liechtenstein v Guatemala) is often cited (or confused) as dealing with issues of multiple nationality or conferment of nationality generally. This is arguably because the international Court of Justice (ICJ) applied a test of effective Nationality to the case a test which is commonly used by governments and courts in cases involving multiple nationalities.

In fact, it is uncontroverted that Mr Nottebohm was never a multiple national according to the municipal laws of the countries in question. Rather, his case involved the right of a state not to recognise another state’s attribution of nationality, and thus to exclude the second state from exercising a right of diplomatic protection.