Want to Become an American Citizen? Try Dying First.

Sir Winston S. ChurchillThere are several paths (ways) to become a citizen of the United States, most of them requiring many years of waiting and, often, a bit of luck.

I think the most difficult path – one I do not recommend – is to become an honorary American citizen.

When you are made an “honorary something,” you are given a title or membership without having to go through the normal process. For example, universities often give celebrities, politicians, and other important people “honorary doctorates,” giving them the title of “Doctor” without actually having to do anything. (Some say I got my Ph.D. without really doing anything, but that’s not completely true.)

It is possible to become an honorary citizen of the United States, when you are made a citizen without having to apply or fill out any paperwork (forms; documents). Sounds like a great idea, right?

The problem with this path to citizenship is that it has only been done by seven people in the past 200+ years. And, according to the U.S. State Department, being named an honorary citizen does not give you a U.S. passport. It’s just, well, an honor to be naturalized (made a citizen), I guess.

Who has become an honorary U.S. citizen? Here’s a list of those who’ve been given this honor either by the a U.S. president or by Congress, and the year they were made citizens. Five of the seven were made citizens posthumously, which is a fancy way of saying they were dead already.

  • Sir Winston Churchill (1963) –  one of the great British Prime Ministers and 20th century leaders. Churchill was actually the very first person to be named “honorary citizen.” He was still alive when given the honor. The odd thing about Churchill’s citizenship is that his mother was an American, which under our current laws may have made him a citizen anyway.
  • Raoul Wallenberg (1981) – a Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews from being killed by the Nazis during World War II. His date of death is unknown, but he is assumed to have been killed in 1947, possibly by the Soviets in the then-U.S.S.R.
  • William Penn (1981) – the founder (person who started) of what later became known as the state (technically, Commonwealth) of Pennsylvania. Born in England, he helped thousands of Quakers immigrate to the then-British colonies during the late 17th century.
  • Hannah Callowhill Penn (1984) – William Penn’s second wife, who helped her husband administer (take care of) the government of Pennsylvania after William had a stroke, and then did it by herself for eight years after his death.
  • Mother Theresa (1996) – a Catholic nun, born in Albania but later an Indian citizen, who worked with the poorest of the poor in India, and started the Missionaries of Charity. She and Churchill are the only two who were living when made honorary citizens.
  • Marquis de La Fayette (Gilbert du Motier) (2002) – a Frenchman who fought for American independence during our Revolutionary War in the late 18th century, serving under George Washington as a general in the army. He is usually known just as “Lafayette” (one word) in American history textbooks.
  • Casimir Pulaski (2009) – Like Lafayette, Pulaski fought against the British in the American Revolutionary War. A native of Poland, he is credited (said to have done something) with saving George Washington’s life during the war. (Washington later became our first president.)

Who will be the next person to join these select seven? Some say it will be a Spaniard (someone from Spain), Bernardo de Galvez. Galvez was governor of the then Spanish-controlled territory of Louisiana during the Revolutionary War, and fought (like Lafayette and Pulaski) against the British to help the Americans win the war. The U.S. Congress recently started the process to name him an honorary citizen.

Galvez, of course, is dead, so this should help his cause (the movement to make him a citizen).


This entry was posted in Life in the United States. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Want to Become an American Citizen? Try Dying First.

  1. Zahra says:


  2. Dan says:

    Hello everyone.

    How are you all guys doing? I am little tired cause I am working the morning shift which literally, cuts your legs off.

    Thanks Jeff, this is interesting. I only knew two of the notorious people mentioned above: Churchill and Mother Teresa. Never heard of the others before.

    Or at least, I do not remember anything of them. Maybe you guys talked about them in one of your recordings in the past.

    This article made me remember a piece of news that came out early this year about -Americans renouncing citizenship-

    One of the latest report showed a sudden increase of US citizens -especially the ones living abroad- giving up citizenship because a new piece of legislation called FATCA.

    According to the article here in Europe there were banks kicking out US citizens due to that law.

    Anyway, anyone interested can find the articles online. Just Google “Americans renouncing citizenship”.

    Now, what I wrote might be having nothing to do with Jeff’s piece, BUT! I wrote something down and that makes me happy.


  3. emiliano says:

    Dear Jeff, it is a difficult subject the one you have posted, as to be sincere I am not interested in being a North-American citizen.
    I would like prefer to be a world´s citizen knowing this is absolutely impossible, but being Spaniard it is enough for the moment
    and having to choose another nationality I would prefer to be French or Italian.
    The two nation have a lot of history, I like the language, I like the people, I like the country, I like their culture and so on.

    I the Congress of USA make me honorary citizen once I am dead, it would be a good gift to my family but I don´t care as being
    dead nothing could disturb me or make me happy any more.

    It should be glad to have a world´s passport with the posibility of being citizen of every country of the globe. This way not so
    may hundred thousand of people have not to risk their life to pass from a country to another.
    Open doors to stablish the land we would like, to work and love every person which ever he/her was born, I don´t mind which
    country they could be, and so forth.

    Our home doors are closed, our country doors are closed, millions of people have nothing and they would like to go other
    lands to work, to mantain their families and have some oportunities for their sons.

    So, why being exclusively citizen of a single country? why for?
    I would like to go everyplace, to stablish ever site I like to to, we are similar humans all over the world, why so many closed

    Yes, of course this is an utopia but having to imagine something I like utopias by all means.

    Thank you Jeff, just a pleasure to read something from you my dear friend.


  4. Tania says:

    Hi! We learn something new every day.
    I have had no idea about the U.S. commonwealth states since the 17th century.
    I know something about the Commonwealth of Independent States from the Russian area, and
    the Commonwealth.
    The British Commonwealth includes 53 member states, mostly territories of the former British Empire,
    constituted in 1949.

  5. Tania says:

    Hi! Very interesting the Scottish independence referendum , 2014, a referendum on
    whether Scotland should be an independent country.

  6. Tania says:

    Hi! Anyway, good joke on this referendum:
    Scontland to England: I’m leaving.
    England: I’m pregnant.

  7. Tania says:

    Hi! New phrases to me:
    – the Soviets in the then-U.S.S.R.,
    – to immigrate to the then-British colonies,
    – the governor of the then Spanish-controlled territory and
    the poorest of the poor.

    Thank you.

  8. Thiago Messias says:

    Woww, what a nice article. Thanks for your beautiful work!! 😀
    Love it

  9. Parviz says:

    Hi every body,
    Everything has its price, don’t you think?
    You can borrow it from someone else, nor you can get it at a lower price.
    Those great people who fought for American freedom, may be so selfless to put their life in danger, but deep in their heart I believe the saw something valuable, worth dying “in the land of dreams”.
    Their name carry on with the united states, though their prize came to be paid years after they have long gone.
    If I had a strong belief in something worth my life, I would go for it.
    That is the cornerstone of happiness, don’t you think.


  10. Parviz says:

    you can not borrow it……….


  11. Parviz says:

    or better,
    you can not borrow it, nor can you ….
    sorry, it is dark in here and I wouldn’t bother turn on the lights.
    Someone is sleeping over and I don’t want to wake … up.

  12. Tania says:

    Hi! Talking about Clare Booth Luce (English Cafe 462)…being editor of Vogue and Vanity Fair.
    I have always thought that Vogue is a French magazine.
    According to Wikipedia, there is American Vogue (first issue published in 1892),
    published in 1916 in Britain, then in 1920 in France.
    The name Vogue means “style” in French, and it is
    “the world’s most influential fashion magazine”.

  13. Tania says:

    Hi! Vanity Fair… a novel by English author William Makepeace Thackeary, published in 1848.
    But Vanity Fair is and a magazine of popular culture, fashion , and current affairs.
    First American magazine (1913 – 1936).

  14. Tania says:

    Hi! Such wonderful women like Clare Boothe Luce…
    Thank you for telling us about her. She can be an example for everyone, for her work power.
    I like very much her opinion reffering to World War II as
    “a world where men have decided to die together because they are unable
    to find a way to live together.”
    Maybe this quote is valid and today.

  15. Tania says:

    Hi! May I share with you some Clare Boothe Luce quotes?

    “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you’re being miserable.”

  16. Tania says:


    “A woman’s best protection is a little money of her own.”

  17. Tania says:


    “A man’s home may seem to be his castle on the outside;
    inside is more often his nursery.”

  18. Dan says:

    Hello everyone.

    How are is everyone doing?
    I do not see Betty writing anymore. Hope I am not the cause for that. That would make me feel guilty.
    My working week it’s finished. It has been hard. The morning shift gets its toll from the body but especially from the mind.

    I am going to have a simple weekend like I am used to.
    Listening to the radio, looking for the pets, reading online, a few yoga sessions for keeping my back flexible, a few Km. run. Just that, easy and simple.

    Hey, anyone out there that enjoy watching pranks on You tube like I do?

    The other day, I was looking at a girl picking up others girls prank. I was really surprised at how many women are out there willing to have a date with a girl.
    Well, she was really attractive.
    Then, there was a guy picking up other guys. He was less successful than the girl.
    It was not really a prank. They call those “social experiment”.

    I think I am done. Thanks and have a nice weekend all of you guys.

  19. emiliano says:

    Dear Dan, now we are listening to “LA TRAVIATA”, Cuca use to cry at the final of the Opera
    when Violetta is dying.
    It doesn´t means how many times we have seen or listening to the Verdi´s Opera, always
    tears drops from Cuca´s eyes.
    We like Verdi as one of the best Opera and Music composer, all his works are wonderful.

    Next we are going to listen to “The Barbieri of Seville” from Rossini, one of my best composer
    because he use to write Opera Bufa, and it is very amusing.

    Gatufo and me were dancing with THE BRINDIS of the first act, so nice and good music.

    This is our plans to the week end, listening Opera from Verdi, Rossini, Purcell and Mozart,
    what do you think about it?

    While we are listening the Operas we both are attending the pc., our mails, our woks
    and of couse reading the news and looking the ESL blog.

    Take care friend, too much exercise could be no so good.
    Look at Banco Santander´s lider, E.Botin, he has died suddenly from a heart attack
    and he practice a lot of sport exercise.
    Such is life.

    I don´t think Betty didn´t write because you fault, that is impossible, you don´t ever
    fault anybody my dear Dan.
    Be sure about that.


  20. Dan says:

    Hi there Emi and Cuca,

    I do not know Emi, sorry but I do not actually have a thought about that.
    It sounds good. I mean Cuca, yourself and gatufo listening to good music and stuff. I like that.

    Does she really cry all the times? That is kind of sweet/funny at the same time. She really feels that and the powerful/moving music.

    Thank you for writing, bye!

  21. Betty says:

    Dear Dan and Emiliano

    It was nice to read both of yours comments. I wasn’t going to write anything here because I still have a lot of things to do before I go to bed.

    But then I spotted my name. I felt it’s not right that I hadn’t written here so such a long time.

    No Dan, I don’t think I will stop writing here.

    Borrowing Jeff’s title for this article, I would say “Want to stop writing in ESLPOD.com’s Blog? Try Dying First.”

    When I read the title for the first time, I wanted to tell Jeff not to be so cruel. But now I find the expression useful.

    Hey Dan I was going to answer you last time, and then I became very busy and hadn’t answer you. Sorry about that.

    I thought you’re younger and stronger, you are ‘Warren’ who kindly provide support to the other rider – me – who need drafting. I will follow you to write more.

    Emiliano you have been kind writing to let us know how you are getting on. You seem to understand everything about what Dan says. I really like your answer to Dan’s comment:

    “I was thinking that those terms are like the phrase”The Sun is rising”

    That is wrong because we are the one spinning around and rotating around it.

    Still, we use those every day ” Sun rising” the “Sun is going down”

    I was thinking on how many erroneous terms, or that we do not like, we use daily. Still, it looks like there are not alternatives for those.”

    I agree with you Dan.

    May I finish this post with a message to Jeff?

    Dear Jeff

    Thank you for this interesting article. But why do the US government give out honorary American Citizenship. That reminds me of the Queen winning a £10 lottery in the very first lottery in UK. OK, might be I have used a wrong comparison. But what’s the reason for giving those honorary American Citizenship? To help their descendants to get American citizenship?

    By the way, I was trying to find the source of the photo in this article because I wanted to confirm if he’s Winston Churchill, but there was no link for this photo.

    I have written enough for today now.

    Time for you guys to start writing.

    Best Regards

    Betty 🙂

  22. Dan says:

    Thank you Betty.

    I must confess to you I was having guilty thoughts. I thought that I might have pushed little to far with my worshipping you.

    I think I am going to stop that. I am not sure that is appropriate, even though is innocent, virtual admiration for a person.

    But I am not 100% positive about that. I may be referring to you again on my future posts Betty.

    After all it is not my fault if you are so sweet and kind of a person.

    Emiliano is intelligent too, but I cannot worship him, Right? 🙂

    I am just kidding around. Thank you all guys.

  23. emiliano says:

    Ja, ja, dear Dan, yes we all love Opera.
    This morning we are listening “Die Entführung aus dem Serail”
    of Mozart, (1778-783) it was a project of the Austrian emperor Joseph II.
    The Emperor had set up the company to perform works in the German
    language, and Mozart did it.
    Usually the language was Italian, yours, but the emperor wanted some
    works in German.

    Morzart also wrote one of the best Opera works in German, “Die Zauberflöte”
    and I love it, it is in fact one of my best music choice.


    Nice to see you here Betty, I know you have lot of things to do, more or less
    like me, (always writing, or reading, while I look after Cuca) but a it is pleasure to read
    you dear friend, just the same as Tania, Parviz, or every one of you dear blogers.

    I think it is time for the blog´s new ones.

    As Betty said, time for you guys to start writing.


  24. emiliano says:

    Sure you know Dan that since Monterverdi or Vivaldi the Italian composers, nearly all Opera works
    were written in Italian, in Mozart´s time the first composer in Austria court was Antonio Salieri,
    that was born in 1750, Legnago, Italy and died in the year 1825, Vienna, Austria. All Opera librettos
    were in Italian, and the emperor Joseph II wanted some opera in German.
    For the italians that were the power force in the music Opera, like today, it was something like a
    sacrilege, OPERA must be written in ITALIAN, they said, and they did all what they could to remain
    things about opera like they have been.

    So, this work of Mozart, broked a lance to favor that Opera could be written in other languages, German,
    French, Spanish, or English.

    In England only Henry Purcell have written some Operas, Dido and Eneas, in English. Othere marvellous
    works of him, H.Purcell, like King Arthur, or the Fairy Queen, was not considerated like Operas but they
    are, and really very good.

    After all these, Handel started to write lot of good Operas in English, when he was in London, but it was
    short after Mozart´s work and H.Purcell who died on 1695.

    I like Henry Purcell´s music absolutely, but like Mozart he only lived 36 years.
    Just such a pity for all music lovers.

    My best Dan.


  25. Betty says:

    Sorry Jeff, I am so so sorry, but I can’t hold my peace.

    The mistake in my post above has been staring in my face, shouting out loud to say ‘correct it!’.

    So, it’s the word “so” that was so wrong in the following sentence.

    “I felt it’s not right that I hadn’t written here so such a long time”.

    Should read as:

    “I felt it’s not right that I hadn’t written here for such a long time”.

Comments are closed.