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Let's imagine a 51st state is accepted into the United States (not necessarily Puerto Rico). Would someone who was born in that state, before it joins the US, be considered a natural-born citizen? What if that person was already a naturalized citizen of the US before the state is accepted?

  • None of the early presidents were born in states that were part of the USA, as the country didn't exist at the time. So I'd argue that the answer is yes. – Steve Melnikoff Oct 21 '16 at 9:25
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    @SteveMelnikoff: No, early presidents weren't natural-born citizens. The Constitution specifically allows people who were citizens at the time of the adoption of the Constitution to be president. – user102008 Apr 18 '17 at 5:42
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The U.S. Constitution uses but does not define the phrase "natural born citizen".
Historically, there were explicit rulings regarding persons who were born on a territory prior to it became an U.S. state.
We don't know the future, but we can safely assume that for future 51st state, there will be similar rulings.


United States Code, Title 8, Sections 1404 and 1405 (markup is mine):

  • 8 U.S. Code § 1404 — Persons born in Alaska on or after March 30, 1867:

    A person born in Alaska on or after March 30, 1867, except a noncitizen Indian, is a citizen of the United States at birth. A noncitizen Indian born in Alaska on or after March 30, 1867, and prior to June 2, 1924, is declared to be a citizen of the United States as of June 2, 1924. An Indian born in Alaska on or after June 2, 1924, is a citizen of the United States at birth.

  • 8 U.S. Code § 1405 — Persons born in Hawaii:

    A person born in Hawaii on or after August 12, 1898, and before April 30, 1900, is declared to be a citizen of the United States as of April 30, 1900. A person born in Hawaii on or after April 30, 1900, is a citizen of the United States at birth. A person who was a citizen of the Republic of Hawaii on August 12, 1898, is declared to be a citizen of the United States as of April 30, 1900.


Since this question is also tagged , I suppose that the OP's concern is whether or not persons who were born on a territory before it (the territory) became an U.S. state can become the U.S. President.

The answer is yes.
Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona (1909) before it became a US State (1912). He was Rep. nominee for President in the 1964 election. His eligibility was challenged in the court. The Supreme Court made the ruling that he is eligible for presidency.
The above Wikipedia link contains a good summary on this matter.

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  • great answer! I wonder what the case would be with people who were naturalized US citizens at the time of joining the US. For example: imagine Austria joined the US ... would Schwarzenegger be elegible? – Eduardo Oct 21 '16 at 6:03
  • Goldwater was born in an incorporated territory, so he was a US citizen from birth. However, it is still possible for someone to have been born in a territory before it became a US territory, or after it became a US territory but before Congress extended birthright citizenship to it (all current US territories that are inhabited are unincorporated; Congress has extended birthright citizenship to some but not all of them, and even for the ones it extended birthright citizenship to, that often happened a while after it became a US territory). Such a person may not have been a US citizen at birth – user102008 Apr 18 '17 at 5:39
  • @user102008 your point is supported by the fact that 8 USC Part I, which contains the sections cited here, is called "Nationality at Birth and Collective Naturalization." This implies that (e.g.) the distinction made in section 1405 between "a citizen of the US at birth" and "a citizen of the US as of..." means that the latter are collectively naturalized, and therefore not natural-born citizens. (I've therefore downvoted this answer because the presidential eligibility analysis seems to be incorrect.) – phoog Oct 31 '18 at 18:10
  • Further, the target of the "made the ruling" link says nothing about the Supreme Court having ruled on the question of Goldwater's eligibility, nor have I found evidence elsewhere that it did so. – phoog Oct 31 '18 at 18:11
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The Citizenship Clause is the first sentence of Section 1 in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." As soon as the State was accepted in the Union they would be citizens but not before.

If they were already citizens, their status would remain as such.

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    citizens yes, but what about "natural-born" citizens? – Eduardo Oct 20 '16 at 23:16
  • While there are two ways to become citizens, the natural born route or the naturalization route, the US does not in fact have two separate designations. You are either a citizen or you are not. For the vast majority of the new citizens would be considered "naturalized". – K Dog Oct 20 '16 at 23:18
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    a very big difference is that natural-born citizens can be elected president, but naturalized citizens cannot. – Eduardo Oct 20 '16 at 23:22
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    The majority opinion by Justice Horace Gray in United States v. Wong Kim Ark observed that: The constitution nowhere defines the meaning of these words ["citizen" and "natural born citizen"], either by way of inclusion or of exclusion, except in so far as this is done by the affirmative declaration that 'all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.' Therefore under today's jurisprudence, we don't know if the hypothetical person would be a natural born citizen or a naturalized one. – K Dog Oct 20 '16 at 23:29

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