by Charles R. Venator-Santiago, University of Connecticut
The United States presently possesses five inhabited unincorporated territories, namely Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Throughout the past century, Congress has enacted an array of citizenship laws conferring various types of citizenship and nationality statuses on the residents of these territories. This article begins by explaining the constitutional status of unincorporated territories, or territories that belong to, but are not a part of the United States. This article provides an overview of the different types of citizenship extended to unincorporated territories throughout the past century. Presently, birth in all territories but American Samoa is tantamount to birth in the United States. Persons born in American Samoa acquire a non-citizen nationality. The article concludes with a discussion of four interpretations of the prevailing citizenship status of territorial citizens.