Birth place of a child is a big deal. With “place of birth” often required to be filled in official documents, parents are intentional about where they give birth to their children. It even gets more serious as countries like the United States of America and Canada which offer citizenship to babies born in their territory.
What will be the case if a pregnant Nigerian woman and her American husband, traveling across the South African airspace happen to put to bed on a Delta Airline and there’s an emergency landing in Canada?
This is an interesting subject to look into, isn’t it? Majority of people are born on land. Their location of birth is well defined and their nationality isn’t up for a debate. But when it’s on an airplane, certain factors have to be considered.
Baby born on plane - criteria for nationality
We have to take into consideration the four variables in this scenario: the parent’s nationalities (Nigerian and American), the airspace territory they were flying over (South Africa), the plane’s country of registration (USA) and the first location the baby gets to after birth (Canada).
A lot of babies have been born on planes
1. Right of blood
Like they say, blood is thicker than water. This is evident in determining a child’s citizenship. Most countries of the world offer citizenship to babies when either or both parents are from there. This is known as jus sanguinis which simply means the right of blood. Such a practice makes a lot of sense because parents are responsible for their kids, at least, until they turn 18.
However, in some countries, the child doesn’t have automatic claim to her mother’s citizenship especially if the mother’s country is different from that of her father. They only give the child her mother’s citizenship if the father is not known or stateless.
2. Birth right
Birth right refers to citizenship given to kids based on the location of their birth. However, this isn’t automatic. One question to ask is: does the country offer birthright citizenship? The airspace in which the baby was born can only be considered if the country is one of those that offer birthright citizenship. This is referred to as jus soil.
Birthright citizenship isn’t a one-size-fits-all. The requirements differ between countries that offer it. While some countries offer it unconditionally, other countries require that parents of the child meet some criteria in regard to their residency.
In this story, Canada offers unconditional birthright citizenship to babies born in their territory. Going by this, the baby is eligible for Canadian citizenship.
US and Canada offer automatic citizenship to babies born in their airspace
The US and Canada are the only developed countries that still offer unconditional birthright citizenship in the world. Parents of babies born in their territories don’t have to meet any criteria. They may be citizens, legal or illegal migrants, residents etc. None of that matters.
3. Citizenship of the plane
An airplane might not be human, but its citizenship matters i.e where it’s registered. In this case, we are dealing with Delta Airline. The airplane is most likely registered in the US. US laws extend to its planes. Suffice to say, the child was born in US space. But there are certain conditions tied to this.
Despite this, it’s not common for a baby to be given the citizenship of a country just because he/she was born on their plane. This is mostly considered if the baby’s parents are stateless and the baby can’t take the citizenship of her parents.
4. First point of landing
It isn’t safe for newborn babies to fly. When they are born on a flight, the plane makes an emergency landing, so they get medical attention. In this story, the emergency landing was made in South Africa.
Some countries may decide to grant a baby their citizenship based on this, so, it’s at the discretion of the South African government to make such a decision.
A number of countries don’t offer dual citizenship. People who have options will have to pick one and forfeit others.
Our baby in this story has the options of being Nigerian, American and Canadian. Isn’t that amazing?