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Understanding the eligibility requirements to run for President of the United States

Updated on January 8, 2016

There are three main requirements an individual must meet to be eligible to run for President of the United States. The first two are clearly defined in Article II, Section 1, clause 5 which states that an individual must be at least 35 years old and must be a resident of the United States for at least 14 years. The third point is not as simple. It is the requirement to be a natural born citizen and this eligibility requirement has recently been raised regarding Ted Cruz. The definition of what constitutes a natural born citizen is not identified in the Constitution. Some individuals are pressing the issue in this presidential campaign but they forget what constitutes a naturalized citizen. It has and has always been that children born to American citizens outside the country have citizenship at birth making them a natural born citizen.

We have military stationed all over the world and if children are born while they are located outside the country who can deny that they are citizens of the United States at birth. The naturalization act of 1790 adopted by Congress said that children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond the sea, or out of the limits of the United States shall be considered natural born citizens. and some would think that it presents a problem for individuals born outside the country to parents who are American citizens.

Eligibility requirements regarding that of being a natural bon citizen is not the first time it has come up. Mitt Romney was determined to be eligible even though he was born to American parents outside the United States. His eligibility was never questioned. In addition Senator John McCain was born in 1936 in the Panama Canal Zone where his father was stationed in the Navy. No one questioned his eligibility to run for President.

To clarify even further when a child is born to an American citizen outside of the United States his citizenship is automatic. These children have never been put through the naturalized process to formally become citizens according to the Naturalization Act as the subject is not addressed. I would argue the requirement was considered not to be necessary. Immigrants who come to this country must go through a naturalization process to become citizens which takes several years. Children who are born to U.S. citizens are citizens at birth just like those born to the military. No one would argue that children born to citizens who are serving regardless of the location where they are serving would see a backlash from the country if such a move was ever presented. This is why it has never been questioned and more than likely never will. Children born to U.S. citizens regardless of their location should be considered citizens, natural bon citizens. Past history and actions of the federal government have accepted this premise.

The move to question the eligibility of any candidate running for President that they are not natural born citizens if they were born outside of the United States appears to be politically motivated. There is much discussion on this issue in the news but from reports most feel that Ted Cruz is eligible to run for President just like previous candidates in other elections. It is time to talk the issues not questioning a candidate’s eligibility. It is true there clearly is no defined definition of what constitutes a natural born citizen. The actions or inactions of the federal government though have accepted the premise that these individuals are citizens and are not required to go through a naturalization process.


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    • Dennis AuBuchon profile image

      Dennis AuBuchon 2 years ago


      You bring up some good points about people in government being vetted. Many things need to change in the way government is operating today. The government has taken control or imposed their will on things that should be left to the individual or to the states per the Constitution.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      bradmasterOCcal 2 years ago from Orange County California


      The problem is greater than just the eligibility for the presidency.

      The presidential candidates have never been vetted, and yet they will have access to the power and secrets of the country.

      We don't let people work on classified projects without clearances. And there is even a clearance above top secret, and that is the need to know. The president of the US has unlimited security clearance, and unlike workers they are not put through the same security clearance.

      As for the natural born question, that should have been brought to the SCOTUS for a decision. The constitution is a pity document and without the decisions of the SCOTUS it has no definition to be applied without a controversy. The SCOTUS decision would bring finality to the issues.

      The question also is why aren't these questions answered within the government instead of on the presidential campaign trail. The voters need to know the veracity about those that want to be president of the US.

      The current system is not working and the people in the government should be vetted and scrutinized even more than people applying for secret clearances and above.

      How can there be any objection to that proposal?

    • Dennis AuBuchon profile image

      Dennis AuBuchon 2 years ago

      jackclee lm

      Thanks for the complement and for stopping by.

    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      Another great piece on the Constitution. Keep up the good work. I am a fan of Ted Cruz and hope he will go far.