Pregnant woman gets on a plane in Vancouver British Columbia Canada. Gives birth over Nebraska. Lands in Maryland.

What state does the birth certificate say the child is born in, and is the time of birth adjusted to that state's time zone?

  • 7
    Let's complicate the hypothetical: The plane is registred in Canada.
    – Trish
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 10:14
  • @Trish, I liked your suggestion, so edited my question.
    – Bookaholic
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 10:22
  • 7
    The problem I suggested was: the vessel is not registered in the land of departure or landing (akin to a polish ship leaving a german port, the woman gives birth in dutch waters and ends in France). So the proposed flight... might be a Lufthansa one? German plane, starting in Canada, landing in Maryland? Also what nationality does our woman have? How about Mexican?
    – Trish
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 11:01
  • 5
    You could complicate it even further if the woman is neither American nor Canadian but from some 3rd country... Even better is if the father is from yet a 4th country... Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 14:34
  • 4
    "Where are the survivors buried?" Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 15:58

1 Answer 1


Skyborn are a known phenomenon.

Country Citizenship?

Generally, the kid automatically gets citizenship from his mom (and father) through bloodline, so our skyborn on that plane is likely that citizenship(s). There are cases that can't grant a citizenship that way (among them: Vatican is only granted ex officio)

The sky is also treated as an extension of the land below. If the country you fly over has Jus Soli, it grants citizenship to the baby born above it. The USA has Jus Soli in its 14th amendment, our skyborn baby has dual citizenship to whatever country the mom is from.

And in case the plane is over unclaimed water - think a nonstop flight Vancouver-Tokyo by Lufthansa - maritime law applies: The airplane is registered somewhere and treated as territory of that land while over international water. Lufthansa is in Germany, so the kid is, on paper, born in Berlin Germany (as that is what Germany prescribes for air- or seaborn). Germany does not use the unrestricted jus soli but the first test is the bloodline to determine what's the kid's citizenship is, unless the kid would have no citizenship through bloodline. So, if any one parent is German, the child is German. jus soli applies mostly to children of someone who has a permanent residence permit for at least 3 years and has been in Germany for the last 8 years: then the kid is (also) German, even if that grants dual citizenship - till the child is 23 and has to choose one of its citizenships. However, if all known parents are stateless or can't grant the kid citizenship through their bloodline (Yes, that happens!), then the kid born on this international flight has the right to become a German citizen - but some rules still apply.

Which City/District/State is responsible?

Now, which state's office is responsible? That is even more tricky. Technically, OP's kid that is born in Nebraskan Airspace is a Nebraskan, so it should be a Nebraskan birth-certificate. But the general rule in maritime practice would be to file the papers in the next port the ship lands, that would be Maryland if applied to planes.

For a german registered ship or plane (my Lufthansa example), the responsible municipality would be Berlin, unless another municipality is responsible.

US State citizenship?

And then, I thank hszmv for this US Addendum:

It should be pointed out that in the U.S. state citizenship is based on primary residency and can be changed over time. I've personally been a Maryland citizen, a Florida Citizen, and a Maryland citizen for a second time in my life. Usually state citizenship denotes exclusively where your vote is cast. No state can restrict a U.S. citizen from taking up residence in that state per constitution. So the Nebraska vs. MD distinction is academic only... the kid could move to California for the rest of his life without much fanfare.

So, as a result, let's assume the parents of the Skyborn actually live in New York. Then te kid gets registered as a New York Citizen, his place of birth is "Above Nebraska" (or the state's equivalent rule) on OP's hypothetical. The couple on the Lufthansa flight could ask to have Berlin (Germany) written into the record, as that is where the interior of all Lufthansa planes is to be considered under the law over international waters.

  • 5
    I think another way to summarize is even if the kid is technically a Nebraskan citizen at birth, they would pretty much immediately become a citizen of the parents' home state (if they live in the US), well before a child's state of residence matters. I would assume the parents' local SS office would be fine. Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 17:49
  • US State citizenship is a bit more than a tidbit (but the description is correct). It is determined by the 14th amendment (the first sentence of Section 1): All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.
    – Flydog57
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 23:31
  • 7
    +1 for this answer. Is this a correct summary? "Citizenship is crazy complicated and every country has its own crazy complicated rules. We can answer this question for Canada, Nebraska, and Maryland, but in general there is no 'in general' when it comes to citizenship."? Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 2:06
  • 2
    The question of state of birth is not entirely academic--state laws differ on the ability to alter the birth certificate (for example to acknowledge a gender identity other than that assigned at birth) and the kid could be in for a huge headache if this becomes necessary and the 'wrong' state issued the cert.
    – Tiercelet
    Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 16:25
  • 1
    @DarrelHoffman Not all people with Vatican Citizenship are priests: Swiss Guardsmen are (during their service time) Vatican citizens and can have children!
    – Trish
    Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 19:28

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