Above answer explains issue using current law situation, but I am interested what exactly was law in 1970 when Ted Cruz was born.

An article in Salon claims (which is possibly invalid claim):

As late as 1961, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1802 Naturalization Act only made a child born abroad a citizen if the father was a citizen.

We know that only mother of Ted Cruz was US citizen; his father was a naturalized Canadian.

"Possible duplicate" answer cites 8 U.S. Code § 1401(g) which says:

A person born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years[.]

My question is, when this current interpretation became law? Was it before 1970 when Cruz was born, or after?

This also suggests that Salon article is wrong (which is entirely possible)?

TL;DR: Salon's article would apply to person born before 1932, not to Cruz.

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    Under current precedent such an interpretation would be a violation of equal protection under the law.
    – Viktor
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 19:25
  • 1
    I don't think this is a duplicate of What's the most crucial issue when deciding Senator Cruz's citizenship?. This one, although somewhat obfuscated by the topical and similar content, seems to be more about when a court ruling becomes law, and whether it is retroactive and retrospective.
    – jimsug
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 22:01

2 Answers 2


This is answered here.

According to Wikipedia, birthright citizenship was extended to children with citizen mothers and noncitizen fathers in 1934; the text of that law seems to be found here.

The 1961 Supreme Court ruling that Salon is referring to seems to be this one, but they are interpreting the law as it stood in 1906, not 1961.

Petitioner, whose mother is a native-born United States citizen and whose father is a citizen of Italy (their marriage having been in the United States), was born in Italy in 1906 while his parents were temporarily residing there, and entered the United States with his mother later the same year.

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    OK so Salon article is misleading. Ruling was in 1961, but situation was way before it. Thank you so much! Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 21:59
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    I can confirm the Wikipedia assertion. My father was born abroad to a US citizen mother and foreign father before the 1934 law came into effect; his brother was born in the same place after the law took effect. After the family moved to the US, my father was naturalized, while his brother, alreadya US citizen, was not.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 6:50
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    I would also add that a law was passed in the 1990s extending citizenship from birth to people born of US citizen mothers and alien fathers before the 1934 change (so now even if my father were to be denaturalized, he would not lose his US citizenship).
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 16:56

Between 1952 and 1986, a child born abroad in wedlock to one US-citizen parent and one alien (non-US-national) parent was automatically a US citizen at birth if the US-citizen parent had been physically present in the US, any time before the child's birth, for a cumulative amount of 10 years, including 5 years that was after turning age 14. This was the provision enacted in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. In 1986, the physical presence condition was amended to be a total of 5 years, including 2 years after turning 14, which is what the law is today, but that is not relevant for Cruz since it came after Cruz's birth.

A summary of the rules for transmission of citizenship to children born abroad can be found here. A very detailed explanation of US nationality law for children born abroad since 1952 can be found in 8 FAM 301.7.

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