Foreign Born Americans Can Become President

From high school civics class, I remember a US presidential candidate…:

  1. Must be 35 years or older
  2. Must be a natural-born US citizen (not a “naturalized” American)
  3. Must have lived in the US for 14 years

Okay, I lied. Above is true, but below is how I actually remember it:

  1. Must be 35 years or older
  2. Must be born in the US (not a foreign-born, “naturalized” American)
  3. Must have lived in the US for the past 14 years

Maybe others remember it differently, too? In any case, there are differences. The biggest difference for American expats is their child or future children born overseas (like our son!) can become a US President.

What’s the Difference?

The President, according to the US Constitution, has to be a “natural-born” citizen. Da fuk does that mean? Well, it means your child, even if born abroad, can indeed become the US President someday.

The concept “natural-born” got reaffirmed in the Harvard Law Review. Yup, a couple smart lawyers explain today what the Constitution meant a couple hundred years ago. Fair enough.

Their decision: as long as mom or dad is American, the baby is a natural-born American, regardless where baby was born.

The other difference is on that 14 years. The Constitution doesn’t specify a presidential candidate must have spent their most recent 14 years in the States. Or even if those 14 are in a row. Hell, it’s legal for an expat to have spent childhood’s first 15 years in the US, moved abroad for 20 years, then come back to run for US President.

Why Is This Coming Up Now?

Namely, Ted Cruz. You probably heard – he was born in Alberta, Canada. It’s not a big deal, provided you believe he’s still eligible. Cruz’s mom was American, dad was Cuban. So, as a Cuban-American born in Canada (which makes him a “TCK,” to those in the know), he’s a natural-born American and a natural-born Canadian. Soon after Cruz’s political foes learned about his birth north of the border, Cruz renounced his Canadian citizenship.

Why Is This Neat for Us?

Our daughter was born in the US, while our son was born in Czech Republic. We’ve teased them that, while it’s cool he was born in Europe, only she has a chance of becoming the US President. Now we learn that’s not true.

Bottom line is, if you’re American citizens and you have a child overseas, then that child is a “natural-born” American not a naturalized American. Is it just semantics? Yes, but still it’s neat.


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An American who likes to move around.
I now live on the eastern Canadian seaboard. My job? A stay-at-home dad for two cute but demanding bosses. My wife? Also cute; not so demanding.
My wife and I both love travel. We met in South Korea, travelled across Australia, India, Europe and beyond. We lived in Czech Republic for four years. Many stories to tell and experience to share. If you let me, I will help you travel as we do.