09/25/2014 05:31 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

If You Are Born on an International Flight, What Citizenship Do You Have?

What citizenship does a child have if they are born on an international flight?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.


Answer by Ali Alkhatib, Student

It's actually not that murky of a question. Keep in mind that before we had planes, we had ships (which were slower and thus way more likely to be the setting of a child's birth).

Generally if the baby is born in international waters (or in the airspace above international waters), the child takes the citizenship of the mother. Pretty straightforward, since the underwater kingdom of Atlantis steadfastly refuses to accept anchor babies (pun(?) not intended).

Also, Atlantis doesn't exist. But I digress.

This follows in line with what is legally referred to as jus sanguinis (meaning right of blood - that you have the right to citizenship of the bloodline from which you originate).

Another consideration is what happens if the baby is born in the airspace of another country. Here's where jus soli (meaning right of soil) comes into play. The US currently extends an offer of citizenship to any child born in the country.

Not all countries do this, so don't go traveling to North Korea in your third trimester just to attain that oh-so-coveted North Korean citizenship for your unborn child. Note that this only amounts to 30 of 200 nations.

Some countries claim to observe jus soli with modifications: the UK requires that one of the parents be "legally settled" in the UK; other's don't require legal citizenship or residency per se, but do require a parent to have lived in the country for some period of time. Thailand requires that the parents have legally lived in Thailand for at least 5 years (legally) for jus soli to be valid for a child.

Ultimately, these make the law sound more like jus sanguinis in my humble opinion (which, for the record, is not backed up by legal training), but in Thailand's case there is actually a meaningful legal difference being offered citizenship by jus soli versus jus sanguinis - a citizen from jus soli can evidently lose his or her citizenship for a myriad of reasons which jus sanguinis citizens don't have to worry about.

I digress again. The point is that, in some 30-40 countries, you can claim citizenship for being born there. But check before you're born there because they might not offer it (or it might have other legal hurdles to clear before you can get it).

If you're curious (for totally academic purposes and not to plan some elaborate sociopathic con involving a human life you'll bring into this world, of course), you might find the history and practice of birthright citizenship very interesting.

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