8 FAM 308.5
Acquisition by Birth in The Panama Canal Zone
(Office of Origin: CA/PPT/S/A)
8 FAM 308.5-1 Current Law
a. The Panama Canal Treaty (TIAS 10030) transferred jurisdiction over the Canal Zone to Panama, effective October 1, 1979. As of that date, the Canal Zone ceased to exist as a separate and distinct geographical entity, making inoperative section 303(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
b. Children born in the former Canal Zone after October 1, 1979 acquire U.S. citizenship at birth only if they come within the scope of sections 301, 303(b), or 309 INA (see 8 FAM 302.7-2).
c. Individuals who acquired U.S. citizenship by birth in the Canal Zone, acquired citizenship unconditionally and maintained their citizenship after enactment of the Panama Canal Treaty.
d. All individuals who possessed non‑citizen U.S. nationality by virtue of their birth in the Canal Zone, ceased to hold that status on October 1, 1979.
8 FAM 308.5-2 Status from December 24, 1952 until October 1, 1979
a. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA) entered into effect on December 24, 1952.
b. Section 303(a) became inoperative on October 1, 1979, when jurisdiction over the Zone was transferred to Panama.
c. From December 24, 1952, until October 1, 1979, a child born in the Canal Zone to a U.S. citizen acquired U.S. citizenship unconditionally. The parent was not required to have resided previously in the United States.
8 FAM 308.5-3 Status before December 24, 1952
a. Status after extension of U.S. sovereignty to the Canal Zone
(1) The area formerly known as the Canal Zone was leased to the United States by a treaty with the Republic of Panama, effective February 26, 1904;
(2) The treaty did not address the nationality status of the native inhabitants. Pursuant to the principles of international law, they became noncitizen U.S. nationals unless they elected to retain their previous nationality; and
(3) For most nationality purposes, the Canal Zone was considered to be foreign territory.
b. Status acquired by birth in the Canal Zone after extension of U.S.: From February 26, 1904, until August 4, 1937, acquisition of U.S. citizenship by persons born in the Canal Zone was governed by section 1993, Rev Stat. (see 8 FAM 301.5). Thus from February 26, 1904 to May 23, 1934, citizenship was transmitted only to children whose fathers were, at the time of the child's birth, U.S. citizens who had previously resided in the United States. The original section 1993, R.S., was amended by act of May 24, 1934, and made possible transmission of citizenship by either U.S. citizen parent who had previously resided in the United States.
c. Laws granting U.S. citizenship to certain persons born in the Canal Zone:
(1) The act of August 4, 1937 (50 Stat. 558)("the act") was the first statute to provide for citizenship to certain individuals born in the Canal Zone. Section 1 of the act provided for acquisition of U.S. citizenship by persons born in the Canal Zone on or after February 26, 1904, to a U.S. citizen parent. The wording of section 1 was the same as that of section 303(a) INA, quoted in 8 FAM 302.7-2. The U.S. citizen parent did not need prior U.S. residence to transmit citizenship, and no retention requirement applied to the children. The Department holds that children born in the Canal Zone between May 24, 1934 and August 4, 1937 were not subject to the retention requirements of section 1993 R.S., as amended; and
(2) Under the act of August 4, 1937, persons born in the Canal Zone to a U.S. citizen before passage of the act acquired U.S. citizenship on August 4, 1937, if they had not already acquired U.S. citizenship. Those born there after August 4, 1937, to a U.S. citizen acquired U.S. citizenship at birth.
d. Provisions from January 13, 1941 to December 24, 1952: section 203(a) NA restated the provisions of section 1 of the act of August 4, 1937. Its text was the same as that of section 303(a) INA. As with the act of 1937, no prior residence or physical presence of the parent in the United States was required to transmit U.S. citizenship, and no later residence or physical presence of the child was required to retain U.S. citizenship.
e. Status of persons born in the Canal Zone to aliens: Persons born in the Canal Zone of alien parents did not acquire U.S. nationality at birth.