Must a U.S. President have been a resident for 14 years immediately prior to being President?

(emphasis added). This has application to the WV Supreme Court in another thread, but this question has always interested me lately as I assumed my original position was correct.

Does this mean:

  1. That the person must have resided in the U.S. for the previous 14 years immediately preceding his accession to the presidency;

  2. That the person must have resided for 14 consecutive years at any time in his life before become president; or

  3. That the person reside in total for 14 years, broken up into however many smaller stays so long as the total is 14 years or more?

Further, what is residency for the purposes of this clause? Is it similar to domicile in diversity jurisdiction cases in that a resident is only someone who is physically present with the intent to remain permanently, or if a citizen from another country attends a university here then that counts for 4 years?

I had never given the question much thought. I always believed that you had to be naturally born, but you could frolic and detour a little while, however if you wanted to be president, you better damned well have gotten over your frolic and been here for the last 14 years. Upon reflection, it is not that clear. What say ye?

14 years at any time in life, clearly. Eisenhower spent four years in North Africa and Europe seven years before being elected.

Does military service count as “non-residency?”

More info here.

Specifically, it uses the example of Herber Hoover, who lived in London from 1910-17. Since he would have failed the 14 years prior, it can only be 14 years at some point in one’s life.

He wasn’t there for four years straight though, right? He came back to the US for high level meetings a such. I don’t think a year abroad as a student or on a vacation would count as non-residency nor would being away in the military.

John Quincy Adams served eight years as a U.S. envoy in Russia and England before coming back to the U.S. just seven years before he was elected President. James Buchanan was minister to the U.K. for three years right before he came back to the U.S. to run for President.

No, they weren’t living in an embassy or anything like that. Things weren’t that organized back then.

George H.W. Bush was a special envoy to China in the 1970s. He wasn’t living in an embassy, either, since the U.S. didn’t even have diplomatic relations with China at that time.

By which this means “born a U.S. citizen, on American territory.”

We had a discussion on another board about whether being delivered by cesarean section, an operation performed only on deceased women at the time of the Constitution’s writing, could impair one’s chances. :dubious: AFAIK, Bill Clinton is the only POTUS who entered the world that way.

And why 14 years? Is it because that’s the difference between age 21 and 35?

The plain reading is that it’s any 14 years, however broken up. If they wanted them to be immediately previous or continuous, it would have needed to say so.

It is also the loosest interpretation, which makes it the more likely to survive since the President is an elected office and the Court would not want to thwart the will of the electorate.

The only argument I see for your interpretation would be one based on intent, if one presumes the intent is to establish an implied loyalty to the United States, and one holds that continuously living here for a certain period of time immediately before running for office establishes a greater loyalty than the other options.

I see no reasoning based on morality that these restrictions need or don’t need to exist, so that interpretation method is immaterial in this case.

I am unaware if any of those who wrote the law opined on this situation. So the “original intent” interpretation method is currently unknown.

And, finally, we have the historical situations that establish precedent, as mentioned above, and those seem to lean towards any 14 years.

I think ambiguities like this should be resolved in favor of the voters and candidates (so option 3). Call it democratic lenity or something like that.

So you think that John McCain and Ted Cruz were both ineligible?

I’m pretty sure it means a cumulative 14 years over the course of one’s life, no matter how interrupted or non-consecutive it may have been.
Would sure be interesting to see a candidate one day in a situation where he has 13 years and something like 360-370 days and then his opponents demand that he produce all his lifetime passport stamps, flight itineraries, etc. to prove he’s gotten to 14.00 years and not just 13.99.

Well Barack Obama now is actually ineligable. :smiley:

nearwildheaven, sure, 14 = 35 - 21 ; but as well, 14 = 1788 - 1774 which means that for the “original citizens” you’d be officially a Resident since before the Revolution.

This is one of those aspects that do not get argued out until raised in the course of an election. And for the purposes of the past, it has been assumed to be 14 years at any time in their lives. That would be what would apply under the so far apparently accepted usage of “natural born” to mean citizen-at-birth, so someone like Cruz or McCain, born abroad but a born a citizen by jus sanguinis (i.e. through the parents instead of through the soil) is qualified if at some point they re-establish main domicile within the USA for at least 14 years.

One thing that would probably raise up the question for a “hard” decision would be if at some point someone born-and-raised in one of the Territories where birthright citizenship applies by statute (Puerto Rico, USVI, Guam, Northern Marianas) and whose professional career happened mostly while officially a resident there became a viable candidate for the Presidential or VP nomination. There would surely arise an argument then over whether the “14 years a Resident within the United States” means it has to be in one of the actual states or DC and then consecutively or at least past voting age or what, because as with the late birth certificates nonsense only then would there be parties interested in disputing qualification.

This was my thought. Take two 65 year old candidates. One lived from birth to age 15 in the United States, but has been living elsewhere for the past fifty years. Eligible under your test.

Candidate two was born in the United States, moved to Canada until age 52 and has lived the last 13 years in the United States. Ineligible.

That seems silly that the first candidate is eligible and the second is not. The second candidate has more recent and adult ties to the United States than the first. I don’t see why any 14 years scattered however throughout one’s life has any real purpose.

The purpose of the clause is to prevent the common European practice of importing monarchs from distant places. The president has to have at least lived in the newly established United States, we couldn’t elect some cousin of the King of France to be our president.

In the context of 1787 you have to remember that the Presidency was seen as analogous to an elected Monarch, with powers that parallel a monarch’s powers–power to pardon, commander in chief of the military, power to veto legislation, and so on. And so the clause is to prevent that sort of thing. Today it seems unthinkable that we’d choose as our chief executive some foreign potentate, but that sort of thing happened frequently in the 18th century.

In any event the clause is irrelevant today because no such thing could actually happen given the 200 year history of our Republic. Same as the 3rd Amendment forbidding quartering of soldiers. We could do away with it, but there’s no particular need to do so, because in practice every conceivable presidential candidate will fulfill the requirements anyway, just like there’s no need to abolish the 3rd Amendment even though no general would try to quarter soldiers in private homes.

I expect because it is 2/5ths of 35. So a candidate of the minimum age would have lived at least 40% of their life in the United States. Of course, I can’t prove that is the reason, but with the way those numbers work out there sure seems to be an idea behind it.

If McCain was born in the Canal Zone, which at the time was U.S. territory, he was, Cruz, born in Canada, technically would not be.

Any kind of bright line in law has this problem. It’s easy to construct specific examples that fall on opposite sides of the line but subvert the apparent purpose of the law.

Employers with 99 employees often have to abide by totally different rules than those with 100.

Two teenagers who have sex might face extremely different legal outcomes on adjacent days.


Such examples generally aren’t a good case for not having any quantitative values encoded into law.

The considered opinion in 2015 and 2016, when Cruz was a candidate in the Republican primaries, was that yes, he very likely was (and still is) eligible.

Washington Post:

Most of these articles cite the Naturalization Act of 1790, which says, “the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens.”

That said, the Factcheck article goes on to say this:

I agree, but in most examples, the numbers are simply arbitrary. 100 is no different than 99, but you have to have a line somewhere. The number 14 seems awfully specific so as to make it seem like there was a purpose for that number.

I like the idea that 35-21=14 meaning that the founders wanted the president, if he was only the minimum age of 35, to have spent his entire adult life in the United States, lending support to the suggestion that it was the immediately preceding 14 years.