Talk:Insular area

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Intro paragraph copied from govt page at bottom - which is written in legalese/government-speek. It makes not a whole lot of sense in English. -Abqwildcat 23:35, 16 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Neither does quotient rule to those unfamiliar with the language of math. Just because it's complicated and hard to understand doesn't mean it's wrong or faulty. jengod 00:21, Jul 17, 2004 (UTC)
I don't mean to suggest it's just beyond my ability, it's also badly written. My opinion is that it needs to be re-written in a way to make it read like an encyclopedia article. --Abqwildcat 00:55, 17 Jul 2004 (UTC)
What exactly is it that you find badly written or difficult to understand? It seems quite clear to me. Hard for me to know how to improve it if you don't give a better indication of the problem. olderwiser 21:17, 17 Jul 2004 (UTC) Never mind--I just realized that I was looking at a version that had already been revised somewhat. olderwiser 21:23, 17 Jul 2004 (UTC)


I am not an american, and therefore cannot understand what this article refers to.

The first statement of the article is: "An insular area of the United States is a jurisdiction that is neither a part of one of the fifty states nor a part of the District of Columbia, the nation's federal district."

Does that mean that the USA regards virtually all of the rest of the world as a so-called "insular area" ?

Um, no. Insular areas are U.S territory, but are not part of the 50 states or D.C. olderwiser 22:27, August 3, 2005 (UTC)

Simply put, an Insular Area is a land that is formally part of the United States, yet remains unorganized into a federal territory (i.e. The District of Columbia) or state (i.e. Alaska). Traditionally, much of the United States did not belong to any one state, but was classified as a federal territory (much like the Northwest Territory of 1789).--TheRealZajac 23:54, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

the easiest way to understand the insular areas: "They are a possession (sovereignty under US) but are not part of the US ".--Royptorico 20:14, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

Merge with incorporated territory?[edit]

Regarding the proposal to merge with incorporated territory, I am overall (but just slightly) opposed to the idea. The terms mean different things. Although today the concept is largely irrelevant (as the only incorporated territory is uninhabited), separate articles may be useful in historic contexts -- or (you never know) a current territory could be reclassified, and an separate article about incorporation may be quite useful.

Most of the overlap seems to be the lists on each page. I am not opposed to some merging/purging of the lists. — Eoghanacht talk 19:25, 26 September 2005 (UTC)

I think merger would be a really bad idea (other than some of the list content, perhaps) and there seems to be no consensus to merge, so I'm removing the note — OwenBlacker 00:04, 23 October 2005 (UTC)


It the first paragraph, it states that insular residents do not pay federal taxes. I am pretty sure that Virgin Islanders do, and perhaps those in other territories. I know Puerto Ricans don't, and perhaps Northern Mariana Islanders don't either. In any case, this sentence needs some facts checking. — Eoghanacht talk 19:31, 26 September 2005 (UTC)

I think it may be more complicated. Technically, USVI residents pay taxes at the same rates (and even using the same forms) as with the IRS, but pay the taxes to the USVI tax authority. [1] Some sort of mirroring argreement. There are similar taxing authorities for American Samoa, The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico, although the precise exemptions and filing obligations vary. It also depends whether you are considered a "bona fide" resident. I.e., a citizen from the mainland who earns income in a territory may have to file separate returns for the IRS and the island's taxing authority. Another factor is the source of the income. [2] olderwiser 01:13, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
The bit about "nationals" in this same section is also incorrect. Residents of all the territories are U.S. citizens except American Samoans, who are U.S. nationals. Actually, technically, all U.S. citizens from everywhere (including the US proper) are U.S. nationals, but not all nationals are citizens; the difference is that citizens can vote and run for office but nationals can't. The fact that they can't vote for Congress or for presidential electors is because their jurisdictions don't elect those officers, not because of their citizenship status or their tax status (residents of DC can tell you that there is no link between taxation and representation). I'm going to try to sort it out. --Jfruh (talk) 23:25, 3 July 2007 (UTC)

Don't employers (and there or indirectly employees have to pay FICA taxes in all insular areas? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:13, 26 July 2009 (UTC)


Why is this article not named "Insular areas of the United States"? Isn't the term "insular area" rather generic on its own? Bhumiya/Talk 04:54, 8 March 2006 (UTC)

I agree with that statement as to the context of this article. I'm not sure about how "generic" the term is. My question is "do other countries and entities use this term?" For now, though, please see Wikipedia:WikiProject U.S. states for more information on this topic as it applies to the USA. • CQ 17:44, 23 July 2006 (UTC)
No google results for Insular Area as a possession of any country other than the U.S. Jerry lavoie 07:49, 4 February 2007 (UTC)
Someone who came across a passing reference to "insular areas" on wikipedia may not realise that it is a US legal term. Adding _of_the_United_States to the URL would make it far more obvious without someone looking at the article itself. Aoeuidhtns (talk) 14:51, 26 October 2009 (UTC)

why the revert?[edit]

I noticed my latest additions to insular area were reverted as "no longer true". I'm just curious what this means. (I'm also wondering, if it's "no longer" true, might it belong lower down in the article under background/history?) Agradman talk/contribs 23:20, 19 July 2009 (UTC)

FYI the text was: "It is defined by the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 (P.L. 95-113), as amended, to include the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Virgin Islands of the United States.

I can't speak for the editor who reverted, though I agree with the action. The legislation you mention appears to define Insular areas within the context of that legislation. That legislation has no specific bearing on the general creation, organization, or operation of the insular areas. olderwiser 00:58, 20 July 2009 (UTC)
Interesting how many legislative cases there are "include the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Virgin Islands of the United States.", and none in the modern era have come to light to "exclude" them.
Executive Order 13423 for where all statutory law applies relative to Environmental, Energy, and Transportation includes them. Nothing to exclude them to date after four years? TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 11:28, 2 February 2014 (UTC)

Organized definition[edit]

There's no indication in the article of what organized means, and Organization does not mention a legal term by that name. I think it would improve clarity if someone who is familiar with the term were to provide a definition here, or replace it with a suitable synonym. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Aoeuidhtns (talkcontribs) 14:58, 26 October 2009 (UTC)

At the Department of Interior webpage for American Samoa it explains, American Samoa is ... "unorganized" becuase Congress has not provided the territory with an organic act, which would provide for the organization of the government and its relationship to the Federal Government.
Congress has delegated the authority over American Samoa to the Secretary of the Interior, who in turn authorized the territory to draft the constitution under which it operates. American Samoans are nationals of the United States and may become naturalized U.S. citizens. --- TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 11:14, 2 February 2014 (UTC)

Samoan U.S. citizens[edit]

The passage "The people of American Samoa are U.S. nationals, but not U.S. citizens" needs reworking. People of American Samoa are U.S. citizens by blood, and by choice at age 18, they are just not citizens by birth on the soil.

U.S. citizens in American Samoa do not lose their U.S. citizenship however that citizenship is acquired. The children of U.S. citizens are U.S. citizens in American Samoa. After a number of years, the spouse of a U.S. citizen can apply at a court house for U.S. citizenship. At age 18 anyone born in American Samoa can apply for "court house" citizenship administratively.

I propose, "The people of American Samoa are U.S. nationals by birth on the soil, and they can become U.S. citizens by birth to a U.S. citizen, marriage to a U.S. citizen, or by court house application after age 18." TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 14:50, 23 January 2014 (UTC)

Anyone born to a U.S. citizen anywhere in the world is a U.S. citizen and foreigners can apply to be naturalized. TFD (talk) 02:24, 1 February 2014 (UTC)
But everywhere in the world is not a part of the United States as American Samoa is. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 13:02, 1 February 2014 (UTC)
Even taking that as the case, your proposed text discusses things that aren't specific to American Samoa at all. Anyone anywhere in the world who is born to a parent with US citizenship gets citizenship by descent, anyone can marry a US citizen, and anyone can be naturalized (assuming they fulfil the requirements). Presumably it's simpler for an American Samoan to naturalize than others, but that's different from saying they're the only ones who can. CMD (talk) 03:14, 2 February 2014 (UTC)
Thank you. That makes sense. The objective is to avoid the impression that no American Samoans are U.S. citizens, and no islander may be, as in the existing language, "The people of American Samoa are U.S. nationals, but not U.S. citizens." The measuring of those relative populations is difficult in tables where percent U.S. nationals and U.S. citizens] are lumped together in the sources immediately at hand. [[User:TheVirginiaHistorian|TheVirginiaHistorian] (talk) 10:48, 2 February 2014 (UTC)
Perhaps add on a statement at the end, that "Their status as US nationals does not preclude the obtaining of US citizenship through normal means." — Preceding unsigned comment added by Chipmunkdavis (talkcontribs) 13:34, 2 February 2014
Thank you, and beyond that that "normal means", there is "courthouse citizenship" where the American Samoan national simply goes to the courthouse at age 18 to secure U.S. citizenship as a simple administrative procedure, unconnected to any quotas associated with those who are not "native-born Americans", as the Census Department interprets U.S. statutes. The Interior department is uses the phrasing, "American Samoans are nationals of the United States and may become naturalized U.S. citizens." TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 12:26, 3 February 2014 (UTC)
Well we could make it "normal means and courthouse citizenship" linking so some section if we have it somewhere, but probably don't need to say more here. CMD (talk) 13:19, 3 February 2014 (UTC)

@TheVirginiaHistorian: We need to see a clear reference describing what you are calling the "courthouse citizenship" concept by which you say American Samoans who are U.S. nationals become U.S. citizens without going through the full-fledged naturalization process. I am genuinely curious about this, as I am not familiar with either this term or the practice. The recent litigation in which American Samoan plaintiffs sought U.S. citizenship unsuccessfully would hardly have been necessary if they could have readily attained citizenship merely by asking for it. For that matter, I have just Googled "American Samoa" "courthouse citizenship" (with those quotation marks), and it brought up absolutely no Google hits at all, other than this page and a related Wikipedia archive in which the term was used by you. Newyorkbrad (talk) 01:58, 12 August 2015 (UTC)

I found the expression “courthouse citizenship” in American Samoa as opposed to US citizenship there available by blood (jus sanguinis, parentage) on an American Samoa interest (government?) page before the recent court case pushed them so far down into the hit results. At newamericanscampaign it explains American Samoans "must fill out the application form and pay the $680 application fee, pass an English and U.S. History and Government test and take the Oath of Allegiance…"
The citizenship does not seem to be on demand, but it is not the full-fledged process ... "for these noncitizen nationals, the outlying possessions of the U.S. count toward residence and physical-presence requirements ... According to the Office of Immigration Statistics, 265 American Samoans became U.S. citizens in 2013, the latest year for which statistics are available. In the past 10 years, more than 2,100 have done so.” TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 05:01, 12 August 2015 (UTC)
I think you may be misreading the source very badly. It indicates that American Samoans may apply for U.S. citizenship if they move, as adults, to a state. It does not apply at all if they stay in American Samoa. And I still haven't seen the term "courthouse citizenship" used anywhere at all. It certainly is not in widespread usage by any means. Newyorkbrad (talk) 18:38, 12 August 2015 (UTC)
I have not been able to refine the earlier reference, but found a source explaining a 3 month residence requirement for American Samoans in a state, and made the copy edit. Thanks. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 10:27, 13 August 2015 (UTC)

Former territories[edit]

I've tagged the assertions in the Former territories section that Cuba and the Panama Canal Zone are former U.S. territories as {{dubious}}. Certainly, neither of these was ever a U.S. territory within the meaning summarized in the lead section of the United States territory article, which is wikilinked in the lead sentence of this article. Neither of these entities were ever U.S. territories. Neither is a former U.S. territory. Both ought to be removed from this section and, probably, from this article.

Perhaps, though, this article might include a list of areas which, though never having been U.S. territories, have been under U.S. governorship governance / administration. Both Cuba and the Panama Canal Zone might be included in such a list, as might post-WW2 Japan and (I presume) a number of other territorial entities.

See also United States territory#Insular areas.

Is there any discussion on this? If not, I'll probably remove the two items I've tagged {{dubious}} in a few days. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 22:30, 11 August 2015 (UTC)

@Wtmitchell: Cuba was never a United States territory. The United States had a significant role there in the years immediately following the Spanish-American War, but that is different from saying that Cuba was a U.S. territory.
The Canal Zone had a (deliberately) anomalous status, but it should receive some mention in the former territories category; many United States laws were applicable in the Canal Zone. It was included within the jurisdiction of the United States for many purposes (for example, there was a U.S. court there—although admittedly, at times U.S. courts have also sat in China and Berlin), people born there were American citizens (see here), the decennial census was conducted there, and so forth. Newyorkbrad (talk) 01:39, 12 August 2015 (UTC)
The Panama Canal Zone was an unorganized territory of the US, according to that article, which AFAIK, Cuba never was. The article could be incorrect, but it needs further research to confirm one way or the other before being before being removed. - BilCat (talk) 01:42, 12 August 2015 (UTC)
A slight complication in terms of inclusion on this page, though, is that while the Canal Zone was a U.S. territory for many purposes, it was never an "insular area," given that it was, plainly enough, not insular. Newyorkbrad (talk) 02:01, 12 August 2015 (UTC)
It seems to me to be a question of what territories were governed either now and in the past through the Bureau of Insular Affairs, now the Office of Territorial Affairs (Insular Affairs history), or covered under the Insular Cases, or both. If a territory isn't covered, than we can either exclude it from this article, or better, add a section clarifying that the territory is not included, explaining why, and therefore, furthering helping readers understand the meaning and significance of an Insular Area. The office's history page is somewhat helpful but it doesn't mention Cuba, the Philippines or Panama. The last paragraph says "Currently, the Department of the Interior has administrative responsibility for coordinating federal policy in the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and oversight of federal programs and funds in the freely associated states of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau."
The Panama Canal Zone was not under the Department of Interior but under the Department of War and then the Secretary of the Army but it was subject to the Insular Cases.
Cuba was under the Bureau of Insular Affairs, according to its Wikipedia article.
I suspect that those areas under military rule, such as the occupied areas post-WWII, where never governed by the Department of the Interior and were never considered sovereign territory of the U.S., even the American Section of Berlin which was occupied technically until 1990.
We need to recognize that a clear-cut, scientific, in-or-out definition is not possible when it comes to issues of sovereignty or any bureaucratic or legal classification. Humanity with our history and culture is messy. Humanity is not scientific. We cannot be easily force history and law into nice bureaucratic pigeon holes such as "sovereignty". Just try answering the question "how many countries are there?" I suspect the same can said for Insular Areas. It depends upon what purpose the question is being asked. Those areas under the Bureau? Those subject to certain laws? (We haven't even discussed Guantanamo Bay). Therefore what we need are third-party sources. It is not up to us to decide what is or is not included. We need to find some expert, or preferably experts, that we can quote to help bring light to this issue. --Iloilo Wanderer (talk) 02:12, 12 August 2015 (UTC)
@Iloilo Wanderer: Thanks for your comments. Your observation that the term "insular area" is ambiguous and always has been is well-taken. That said, we should not rely on which places were or were not administered by the Bureau of Insular Affairs in listing the insular areas. (As it happened, I researched the history of that Bureau extensively a few years ago, for an off-wiki project a few years ago; I also drafted our article on it.) As you point out, the Bureau played a role in Cuba for a time, but that did not make Cuba a U.S. territory in 1899-1902, any more than it was a U.S. territory in 1906-09, when the Bureau also handled some governmental functions there, or any more than Haiti or the Dominican Republic were U.S. territories during their periods of Bureau-administered customs receiverships. For that matter, the Bureau of Insular Affairs never had responsibility for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, or American Samoa, which at the time were administered by the Navy Department, but certainly were "insular areas" (former term "insular possessions").
For anyone interested in a thorough discussion of U.S. jurisdiction and the administrative history of each of the locations that anyone could possibly have considered a twentieth-century U.S. territory and/or insular area, the recommended reading is the book The Office of Territorial Affairs by Ruth Van Cleve. Regards, Newyorkbrad (talk) 02:29, 12 August 2015 (UTC)