Is your citizenship up in the air?
Last updated 24 April 2017)
- 0.1 It’s All Christina’s Fault
- 0.2 So Who Knows The Answer Without Reading Farther?
- 0.3 Breaking Down The Question
- 0.4 Jus sanguinis
- 0.5 Jus soli
- 0.6 The Philippines is a Jus sanguinis country.
- 0.7 Now For The More Complicated Part
- 0.8 US citizenship law follows BOTH the principle of Jus sanguinis and Jus soli.
- 0.9 But What About Jus soli?
- 0.10 The USA citizenship laws also follow the Jus sol principle.
- 0.11 Obviously, neither of those special cases apply here, so we are left with this:
- 0.12 But Is An Airplane In Flight “US Soil”?
- 0.13 Bur There’s One Other Possibility to Consider
- 0.14 What if the aircraft the parents are flying on is of British registry?
- 0.15 But what if the baby is born AFTER the aircraft enters the territorial airspace of the United Kingdom?
- 0.16 So My Final Answer Is:
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- 3 Share this Article:
What do I mean by “up in the air”? Well read on and you might learn something … I did … even if it is only the debunking of some old wife’s tales.
It’s All Christina’s Fault
Recently a reader named Christina posted this comment:
Hi I hope you can help me with this. It’s an assigned case for our class by our professor. So here it is:
The Mother and Father were having a vacation in America, before they went back to the Philippines, they decided to have a little side trip to London but the time before the airplane landed in London, the mother gave birth. What will be the baby’s citizenship? and why?
Being a typical grouchy old man, and feeling I should support Christina’s professor in the quest to inculcate some research skills, and a bit of international citizenship knowledge (something woefully lacking in most of the Filipinos and Americans I deal with) (and also being lazy), I responded back to Christian that I wasn’t going to do her homework for her.
Perhaps she has already researched the answer to her own question (did you, Christina?), but after reading and rereading this piqued my interest. There’s actually a LOT to this seemingly simple question.
So Who Knows The Answer Without Reading Farther?
If you do, just jump to the comments and let me know what you think the answer is. If you’re not ready for that, keep reading.
Breaking Down The Question
First of all, I have to make an assumption here. Considering the origin of the question and the fact the mother and father in the question are returning to the Philippines at the end of their vacation, I’m going to assume they are both Filipino citizens.
So the first part of the question is easy to resolve. The baby will be a natural-born Filipino, no matter where the birth occurs. Philippine law is very clear on this.
There are more than 200 recognized countries in the world, and all of them have their own laws of citizenship. In general, citizenship law is broken down into two basic “principles”. All counties I know of follow one, or both of these principles.
(Latin: “right of blood”) is a principle of nationality law by which citizenship is not determined by place of birth but by having one or both parents who are citizens of the state.
(Latin: “right of the soil”), commonly referred to as birthright citizenship, is the right of anyone born in the territory of a state to nationality or citizenship.
The Philippines is a Jus sanguinis country.
You are born a Filipino if one or both of your parents are Filipino citizens at the time of your birth. It does not matter where you are at the time of your birth, you are born Filipino … in the Philippines, in the USA, in a plane over the open ocean, wherever the birth occurs.
Many people ignore the obvious implications here. Under Philippine law the place of your birth (the soil) has absolutely no bearing on your Philippine citizenship. For example, should a baby be born in the Philippines, and both parents are NOT Filipino, that baby has no claim at all to Philippine citizenship, even if s/he be born in Philippine General Hospital, Manila.
Those who follow Philippine politics may recall the problems Senator Grace Poe had during her recent run for president;
Senator Poe was born in the Philippines. That was never in question. But since she was a foundling, and could not identify her parents, many of her opponents tried to question the senator’s eligibility to seek the office of president becuase it could not be proven that her parents were Philippine citizens at the time of her birth.
So a large part of the professors question posed to Christina is just a “smoke scree”, an attempt to make somehting simple much more complicated.
The first part of a compete answer is, The baby’s parents are Filipinos so the baby is Filipino, no matter where s/he is born.
Now For The More Complicated Part
Just to make things simpler (or perhaps more complicated, it depends). Because the USA is “special”, kind of a legend in its own mind, LoL,
US citizenship law follows BOTH the principle of Jus sanguinis and Jus soli.
In English, this means if a baby is born of one or both US citizen parents, anywhere in the world, that baby has US citizenship, by birth. A “natural-born” US citizen. That’s why I personally had quite a chuckle back a few years ago when there was an active US “Birthers” movement who tried to claim that then-President Obama wasn’t a “natural-born” US citizen because it was alleged he had not been born on US soil.
Under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, it doesn’t matter, the president had a US citizen mother, therefore he is a US citizen, period. A LOT of Americans believe a US president MUST be born on US soil, but in accordance with the 14th Amendment, this just is not so. Another old wife’s tale.
But to our Filipino baby born on an airplane en route from the US to the UK. However this doesn’t matter,
The baby in question does not have either parent of US citizenship, therefor s/he can NOT be a US citizen under the principle of Jus sanguinis.
But What About Jus soli?
Yes, what about it indeed? I’m sure this is one reason the professor added the extra complication of the parent’s flight to England and the baby’s birth aboard the airplane. This now may be complicated, under certain unique and rare circumstances.
The USA citizenship laws also follow the Jus sol principle.
Under the current Constitution, and child born “On US soil” automatically become a “natural-born” US citizen. This is automatic, and it matters not what nationality the baby’s parents are.
Even if they were illegal immigrants, the child is still a US citizen. This part of the law angers many these days, and perhaps there will be a change in the Constitution regarding this, but amending the US Constitution takes a long time and a lot of political effort, so here in 2017, the law is clear.
There are only two exemptions to this t=rue:
- If the parents are in the USA on diplomatic passports.
- If the parents are part of an invading armed force attacking the USA.
Obviously, neither of those special cases apply here, so we are left with this:
Thus, if the bay is born “on US soil”, the baby is a US citizen, as well as a Filipino citizen. This form of dual citizenship is legal under both Philippine and US law, and always has been.
The baby has full and natural Philippine citizenship under the laws of the Republic of the Philippines, and full and natural US citizenship under the laws of the USA.
If a baby is born on a ship in US waters or on an airplane inside the USA, the citizenship[ rules apply just the same as if the baby was born in a UD=S hospital in a US city.
But Is An Airplane In Flight “US Soil”?
Obviously not. Umm, well, not so fast, under some conditions it could be. I’m pretty sure this is kind of the crux of the professor’s question.
Here’s what the official rules of the Department of State of the United States has to say about this situation.
Birth in U.S. waters and airspace
A child born in U.S. waters or airspace is a U.S. citizen by birth. See 7 FAM 1115, (What Is Birth In U.S. Airspace?) and 7 FAM 1116 (Documenting Birth in U.S. Waters and U.S. Airspace).
For example, the baby of a Taiwan citizen who in 2015 sought to enter the U.S. as a birth tourist but instead went into labor then gave birth in U.S. airspace en route to Los Angeles was recognized as a U.S. citizen by birth. See all of the US State department FAM here: ACQUISITION OF U.S. NATIONALITY IN U.S. TERRITORIES AND POSSESSIONS
So if the baby was born on the airplane before the airplane took off from US soil, in addition to being a Philippine citizen, the baby will be a US citizen.
If the baby was born while the airplane was in flight, but before the aircraft crossed over the 12 nautical mile US territorial limit. then the baby would also be both a Filipino and a US citizen, by birth.
But if the aircraft was already over international waters (outside the 12 mile limit), the child would have Filipino citizenship only, as US Jus soli rules would not apply.
Bur There’s One Other Possibility to Consider
What if the aircraft the parents are flying on is of British registry?
At one point in time, certainly before 1961, the child might well be considered to be British, as Britain considered aircraft registered in Britain to be a form of British territory. The British citizenship acts (there are several) are even more complex that the US law, and I am not going into them today. My reading indicates that under current law the child could not be considered a British subject if born while over the high seas (International waters).
But what if the baby is born AFTER the aircraft enters the territorial airspace of the United Kingdom?
Might he or she be a Filipino citizen by birth as well as a British citizen as well?
Quite possibly this would be a “yes”. Again, I’ve done enough research and read enough laws for today, but under current UK law I believe the child might be able to claim British citizenship, if, and only if, s/he was born inside Britain’s territorial limits.
This would mirror exactly the case cited above where the Taiwanese baby was born en route to the USA and was able to successfully claim US citizenship
So My Final Answer Is:
The Bay is Filipino, and possibly also US or British, depending upon where the airplane was at the time of birth. Anyone out there have a different interpretation?
Also I have to say I give the professor a C- or a D for the wording of the question, because without certain specifics not included, the question is not possible to answer with certainty.
And Christian, OK, you got your answer out of me anyway, I hope you pass the course and go on to do great things. Godspeed.
So any one else out there wondering if your citizenship up in the air?