What nationality does a baby born at sea or in the air get?
The answer is simple if one of the parents hails from a country that upholds the principle of jus sanguinis, the Latin term for granting citizenship based on the nationality of one’s parents.
Japan is one such country, meaning that if a baby has a Japanese parent, it receives that nationality regardless of birthplace.
Countries that adhere to the principle of jus soli, on the other hand, only grant citizenship based on birthplace.
Ths means, for example, if a baby is born in an aircraft flying over United States territory, the newborn can acquire U.S. citizenship even if the parents aren’t U.S. citizens, according to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
But things get much more complicated if a baby is born in flight between two countries.
One such incident occurred in 2006, when a Mexican woman gave birth to a girl aboard a Mexicana Airlines plane bound for Chicago from Mexico, according to a report by CBS. Since the baby had to be born in U.S. airspace to obtain U.S. citizenship, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services investigated to determine whose airspace the plane was in when she was born, CBS reported.
Babies born on ships traveling within U.S. waters are also considered born in America and thus qualify for U.S. citizenship.
However, a baby born on a U.S.-registered aircraft outside U.S. airspace or aboard a U.S.-registered or documented ship on the high seas or in an exclusive economic zone, are not eligible for U.S. citizenship based on place of birth.
The United Kingdom upholds a different principle, although it normally grants citizenship by birthplace. If non-British parents have a baby in British airspace or in national waters, the child is not automatically granted U.K. citizenship, even if aboard a British airplane or ship, according to the British Embassy in Tokyo.
In the future, such questions may extend beyond national borders and go even further — into space.
The Web site of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency claims that, based on experiments with birds and amphibians, humans are probably capable of giving birth in space, which may prove to be the final nationality frontier.
For now, however, pregnant women are barred from space flights.