Leaving aside the "natural born citizen" aspect of running for US president, Senator Ted Cruz acted to renounce his Canadian citizenship as part of his preparation for a presidential run. (He claimed that he didn't even know he was a Canadian citizen!)

Why did he consider this a necessary step?

What would have happened to his candidacy if the Canadian government had declined his request to have his Canadian citizenship removed?

2 Answers 2



Absolutely nothing would have happened to his candidacy on any official basis. He didn't do it because it was legally required. He did it because it looked bad for him to have a dual citizenship.

I.e. he did it purely for political reasons.

Note that there has never been a foreign born President of the United States (arguably excepting those early Presidents born in the British colonies). Ted Cruz would be the first if elected.

Chester A. Arthur makes for an interesting case, as it is possible that he was born on the Canadian side of the border. His family lived close enough that they would cross frequently. But the official ruling was that he was born in Vermont.

There have been other candidates. For example, John McCain was actually born in Panama. But he wasn't elected and no one contested his eligibility.

  • For those early Presidents, the Constitution has the exception of "...or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President;". As for McCain, wasn't he born of U.S. citizens on a military base? Mar 25, 2019 at 23:22
  • but we 🇨🇦are still grateful Ted left us, whatever the reason! Nov 17, 2019 at 0:33
  • @MichaelRichardson he was, but the military base part isn't relevant. The fact that it was in the US-controlled Canal Zone and not anywhere else in Panama was relevant, however, but not in the way most people think.
    – phoog
    May 9, 2023 at 18:41

What would have happened {...} if the Canadian government had declined his request to have his Canadian citizenship removed?

Then the United States would invade Canada, and force them, at the tip of a sword, to recognize his expatriation! Or, at least, that's what we did the last time this happened.

But seriously; two centuries ago, this was actually a matter of importance, and the world community came to recognize voluntary expatriation as a matter of basic human rights. The idea that a person can be held in permanent vassalage to their sovereign, or be otherwise bound in serfdom upon the land, is an antiquated, feudal conceit.

So even if the Canadians wanted Ted Cruz (though it would hard to imagine why), any attempts to compel his continual citizenship would fail when they met international scrutiny. The Canadian Government could compel him to fulfill duties which he'd accrued from actually going to Canada and being subject to its laws (like paying outstanding taxes, sitting trial for a crime, or answering the draft, if he had enrolled for it), and they could, if it pleased them, continue to offer him whatever protections or privileges ordinarily come with Canadian membership (as they could, hypothetically, offer to any other person, foreign or otherwise). It is a matter of first principles, however, that if Ted Cruz renounces any possible citizenship in Canada and makes it a public record, then that is his unalienable human right, and one of the protections implied by his American citizenship is shelter and protection from any sovereignty who says otherwise.

In any event, you should think about this logically: It would be pretty damn silly if we prevented people from holding office just because a foreign country claimed them as a citizen and refused to recognize any assertions to the contrary. Can you imagine? Kim Jung Un could extend the blanket of North Korean citizenship to every person in America and invalidate the possibility of anybody ever serving as President ever again! No, that would be ridiculous. So, even if there was a constitutional mandate for the President to be an exclusively American citizen, the requirement would most certainly be fulfilled by a simple oath of loyalty.

  • If Canada had the same rules about taxing worldwide income of non-resident citizens that the IRS has, Senator Ted would owe Canada a lot of back taxes and penalties before he would be allowed to renounce his citizenship...
    – DJohnM
    Mar 26, 2016 at 2:26
  • He might owe a lot of taxes, but that would be non-bearing. His capacity to dissolve his allegiance is not contingent on any other duty or obligation. A non-citizen is perfectly capable of having a debt.
    – Eikre
    Mar 26, 2016 at 16:05
  • 1
    "then that is his unalienable human right, and one of the protections implied by his American citizenship is shelter and protection from any sovereignty who says otherwise." No, it is not his unalienable human right, and some countries do not allow people to renounce citizenship or make it practically impossible in most circumstances, and US citizenship does not give any "shelter or protection" from anybody except with respect to US law.
    – user102008
    Mar 29, 2016 at 22:31
  • @user102008 On the first point: Yes, there are plenty of countries that will trample all sorts of your human rights. So what? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims both the right to leave a country and the right to change one's citizenship. A dual-citizen of Canada is well within his rights to journey to leave Canada to take up residence in his other homeland, and to change his citizenship to eschew any Canada-ness.
    – Eikre
    Mar 29, 2016 at 23:50
  • @user102008 On the second point: A Citizen of the United States has the right to remain in the United States. He cannot be deported, and he cannot be extradited except to face charges for crimes enumerated by international treaty. So, unless the Canadians find evidence that the Zodiac Killer was active in British Columbia, the United States are obliged to permit Ted Cruz to remain here (that's the "shelter" bit) and if the Canadians try to send men to capture him, then the government of the United States is obliged to oppose them with violent force (which is the "protection" bit.)
    – Eikre
    Mar 29, 2016 at 23:51

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