Territories of the United States

Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative divisions overseen by the federal government. They differ from U.S. states and Native American tribes, which have limited sovereignty.[2][note 1] The territories are classified by incorporation and whether they have an "organized" government through an organic act passed by Congress.[3]

The U.S. currently has sixteen territories in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.[note 2] Five (American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) are permanently-inhabited, unincorporated territories; the other nine are small islands, atolls and reefs with no native (or permanent) population. Of the eleven, only one is classified as an incorporated territory (Palmyra Atoll). Two territories (Bajo Nuevo Bank and Serranilla Bank) are de facto administered by Colombia.[5][6] Territories were created to administer newly-acquired land, and most eventually attained statehood.[7][8] Others, such as the Philippines, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau, later became independent.

Many organized incorporated territories of the United States existed from 1789 to 1959. The first were the Northwest and Southwest territories, and the last were the Alaska and Hawaii Territories. Thirty-one territories (or parts of territories) became states. In the process, some less-developed or -populous areas of a territory were orphaned from it after a statehood referendum. When a portion of the Missouri Territory became the state of Missouri, the remainder of the territory (the present-day states of Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, most of Kansas, Wyoming, and Montana, and parts of Colorado and Minnesota) became an unorganized territory.[9]

Territorial telecommunications and other infrastructure is generally inferior to that of the U.S. mainland, and American Samoa's Internet speed was found to be slower than several Eastern European countries.[10] Poverty rates are higher in the territories than in the states.[11][12]

Territories of the United States
Flag of Commonwealth Unincoprorated Territory Insular area
  The 50 states and the Federal District   Commonwealtha   Incorporated unorganized territory   Unincorporated organized territory   Unincorporated unorganized territory
  The 50 states and the Federal District
  Incorporated unorganized territory
  Unincorporated organized territory
  Unincorporated unorganized territory
Largest settlementSan Juan, Puerto Rico, U.S.
LanguagesEnglish, Spanish, Hawaiian, Chamorro, Carolinian, Samoan
Donald Trump
• Governors
List of current territorial governors
• Total
22,294.19 km2 (8,607.83 sq mi)
• Estimate
CurrencyUnited States dollar
Date formatmm/dd/yyyy (AD)
  1. "Commonwealth" does not describe a political status, and has been applied to states and territories. When used for U.S. non-states, the term describes a self-governed area with a constitution whose right of self-government will not be unilaterally withdrawn by Congress.[1]
United States 1868-1876
The United states from 1868 to 1876, including nine organized and two unorganized territories

Existing territories and legal status

The U.S. has had territories since its beginning.[13] According to federal law, the term "United States" (used in a geographical sense) means "the continental United States, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the United States Virgin Islands".[14] Since 1986, the Northern Mariana Islands have also been considered part of the U.S.[14] A 2007 executive order included American Samoa in the U.S. "geographical extent", as reflected in the Federal Register.[15] All territories are in the Northern Hemisphere, except for American Samoa and Jarvis Island.

Permanently-inhabited territories

The U.S. has five permanently-inhabited territories, two of which are known as "commonwealths": Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea; Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, in the western North Pacific Ocean's Mariana Islands, and American Samoa in the South Pacific Ocean. About four million people in these territories are U.S. citizens, and citizenship at birth is granted in four of the five territories.[16] American Samoa has about 32,000 non-citizen U.S. nationals.[17] Under U.S. law, "only persons born in American Samoa and Swains Island are non-citizen U.S. nationals" in its territories.[18] American Samoans are under U.S. protection, and can travel to the rest of the U.S. without a visa.[18] American Samoans must become naturalized citizens, like foreigners.[19] Unlike the other four inhabited territories, Congress has passed no legislation granting birthright citizenship to American Samoans.[16][note 3]

Each territory[note 4] is self-governing with three branches of government, including a locally-elected governor and a territorial legislature. It elects a non-voting member (a non-voting resident commissioner in the case of Puerto Rico) to the U.S. House of Representatives.[22][23][24] They "possess the same powers as other members of the House, except that they may not vote [on the floor] when the House is meeting as the House of Representatives";[25] they debate, are assigned offices and staff funding, and nominate constituents from their territories to the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Air Force and Merchant Marine academies.[25] They can vote in their appointed House committees on all legislation presented to the House, they are included in their party count for each committee, and they are equal to senators on conference committees. Depending on the Congress, they may also vote on the floor in the House Committee of the Whole.[26] In January 2017, the members of Congress from the territories were Gregorio Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands), Madeleine Bordallo (Guam), Amata Coleman Radewagen (American Samoa), Jenniffer González (Puerto Rico) and Stacey Plaskett (U.S. Virgin Islands).[27] The District of Columbia also has a non-voting delegate. Like the District of Columbia, U.S. territories do not have voting representation in Congress and have no representation in the Senate.[28][29]

Every four years, U.S. political parties nominate presidential candidates at conventions which include delegates from the territories.[30] U.S. citizens living in the territories cannot vote in the general presidential election,[28] and non-citizen nationals in American Samoa cannot vote for president.[16]

The territorial capitals are Pago Pago (American Samoa), Hagåtña (Guam), Saipan (Northern Mariana Islands), San Juan (Puerto Rico) and Charlotte Amalie (U.S. Virgin Islands).[31][32] Their governors are Lolo Matalasi Moliga (American Samoa), Eddie Baza Calvo (Guam), Ralph Torres (Northern Mariana Islands), Ricardo Rosselló (Puerto Rico) and Kenneth Mapp (U.S. Virgin Islands).

Name Abbr. Location Area Population
Capital Largest town Status Acquired
 American Samoa AS Polynesia (South Pacific) 197.1 km2 (76 sq mi) 51,504 Pago Pago Tafuna Unincorporated, unorganized April 17, 1900
 Guam GU Micronesia (North Pacific) 543 km2 (210 sq mi) 162,742 Hagåtña Dededo Unincorporated, organized April 11, 1899
 Northern Mariana Islands MP Micronesia 463.63 km2 (179 sq mi) 52,263 Capitol Hill, Saipan[note 5] Garapan Unincorporated, organized (commonwealth) November 4, 1986[note 6][34][33]
 Puerto Rico PR Caribbean (North Atlantic) 9,104 km2 (3,515 sq mi) 3,337,177 San Juan San Juan Unincorporated, organized (commonwealth) April 11, 1899[35]
 Virgin Islands, U.S. VI Caribbean 346.36 km2 (134 sq mi) 104,901 Charlotte Amalie Charlotte Amalie Unincorporated, organized March 31, 1917



Except for Guam, the inhabited territories lost population from 2010 to 2017. Although the territories have higher poverty rates than the mainland U.S., they have high Human Development Indexes. Four of the five territories have another official language, in addition to English.[50][51]

Territory Official language(s)[50][51] Pop. change (2010–17)[52] Poverty rate (2009)[53][54] Life expectancy (years) HDI[55][56] GDP ($)[57] Traffic flow Time zone Area code (+1)
American Samoa English, Samoan −2.39% 65%[note 8] 73.4 0.827 $658 million Right Samoan Time (UTC-11) 684
Guam English, Chamorro 2.12% 22.9% 76 0.901 $5.793 billion Right Chamorro Time (UTC+10) 671
Northern Mariana Islands English, Chamorro, Carolinian −0.68% 52.3% 75.4 0.875 $1.242 billion Right Chamorro Time 670
Puerto Rico English, Spanish −10.43% 43.5%[note 9] 80.9 0.845 $103.135 billion Right Atlantic Time (UTC−4) 787, 939
U.S. Virgin Islands English −3.25% 22.4% 79.4 0.894 $3.765 billion Left Atlantic Time 340

The territories do not have administrative counties.[note 10] The U.S. Census Bureau counts Puerto Rico's 78 municipalities, the U.S. Virgin Islands' three main islands, all of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands' four municipalities, and American Samoa's three districts and two atolls as county equivalents.[59][60] The Census Bureau also counts each of the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands as county equivalents.[59][60]

Minor outlying islands

The United States Minor Outlying Islands are small islands, atolls and reefs. Palmyra Atoll, Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll and Wake Island are in the Pacific Ocean, and Navassa Island, Serranilla Bank, and Bajo Nuevo Bank are in the Caribbean Sea. Palmyra Atoll (formally known as the United States Territory of Palmyra Island)[61] is the only incorporated territory, a status it has maintained since Hawaii became a state in 1959.

The status of several territories is disputed. Navassa Island is disputed by Haiti, Wake Island is disputed by the Marshall Islands, Swains Island (part of American Samoa) is disputed by Tokelau, and Serranilla Bank and Bajo Nuevo Bank (both administered by Colombia) are disputed by Colombia, Jamaica, Honduras, and Nicaragua.[62][63] They are uninhabited except for Midway Atoll, whose approximately 40 inhabitants are employees of the Fish and Wildlife Service and their services provider;[64] Palmyra Atoll, whose population varies from four to 20 Nature Conservancy and Fish and Wildlife staff and researchers;[65] and Wake Island, which has a population of about 100 military personnel and civilian employees.[66]

Name Location Area Status Notes
Bajo Nuevo Bank North Atlantic Ocean & Caribbean Sea 110 km2 (42 sq mi) Unincorporated & unorganized Administered by Colombia. Claimed by the U.S. (under the Guano Islands Act) and Jamaica. A claim by Nicaragua was resolved in 2012 in favor of Colombia by the International Court of Justice, although the U.S. was not a party to that case and does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICJ.[67]
Baker Island[a] North Pacific Ocean 2.1 km2 (0.81 sq mi) Unincorporated, unorganized Claimed under the Guano Islands Act on October 28, 1856.[68][69] Annexed on May 13, 1936, and placed under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of the Interior.[70]
Howland Island[a] North Pacific Ocean 4.5 km2 (1.7 sq mi) Unincorporated, unorganized Claimed under the Guano Islands Act on December 3, 1858.[68][69] Annexed on May 13, 1936, and placed under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department.[70]
Jarvis Island[a] South Pacific Ocean (Polynesia) 4.75 km2 (1.83 sq mi) Unincorporated, unorganized Claimed under the Guano Islands Act on October 28, 1856.[68][69] Annexed on May 13, 1936, and placed under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department.[70]
 Johnston Atoll[a] North Pacific Ocean 2.67 km2 (1.03 sq mi) Unincorporated, unorganized Last used by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2004
Kingman Reef[a] North Pacific Ocean 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi) Unincorporated, unorganized Claimed under the Guano Islands Act on February 8, 1860.[68][69] Annexed on May 10, 1922, and placed under the jurisdiction of the Navy Department on December 29, 1934.[71]
 Midway Atoll North Pacific Ocean 6.2 km2 (2.4 sq mi) Unincorporated, unorganized Territory since 1859; primarily a wildlife refuge and previously under the jurisdiction of the Navy Department
 Navassa Island Caribbean Sea 5.4 km2 (2.1 sq mi) Unincorporated, unorganized Territory since 1857; also claimed by Haiti
 Palmyra Atoll North Pacific Ocean 12 km2 (5 sq mi) Incorporated, unorganized Partially privately owned by the Nature Conservancy, with much of the rest owned by the federal government and managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.[72][73] It is an archipelago of about 50 small islands with a land area of about 1.56 sq mi (4.0 km2), about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) south of Oahu. The atoll was acquired through the annexation of the Republic of Hawaii in 1898. When the Territory of Hawaii was incorporated on April 30, 1900, Palmyra Atoll was incorporated as part of that territory. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, however, an act of Congress excluded the atoll from the state. Palmyra remained an incorporated territory, but received no new, organized government.[74]
Serranilla Bank North Atlantic Ocean & Caribbean Sea 350 km2 (140 sq mi) Unincorporated & unorganized Administered by Colombia; site of a naval garrison. Claimed by the U.S (since 1879 under the Guano Islands Act), Honduras, and Jamaica. A claim by Nicaragua was resolved in 2012 in favor of Colombia by the International Court of Justice, although the U.S. was not a party to that case and does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICJ.[67]
 Wake Island[a] Western Pacific Ocean (Micronesia) 7.4 km2 (2.9 sq mi) Unincorporated, unorganized Territory since 1898; host to the Wake Island Airfield, administered by the U.S. Air Force. Also claimed by the Marshall Islands.[75]
  1. ^ a b c d e f These six territories and Palmyra Atoll make up the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.

Incorporated and unincorporated territories

San Juan skyline
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Tumon Beach in Guam
Wake Island Lagoon Paradise by Matthew Piatkowski
Wake Island lagoon
Red-footed Booby (5896652469)
Red-footed booby at Palmyra Atoll
Starr 080531-4748 Pritchardia sp.
Navy memorial and albatross monument with Laysan albatross chicks at Midway Atoll

Congress decides whether a territory is incorporated or unincorporated. The U.S. constitution applies to each incorporated territory (including its local government and inhabitants) as it applies to the local governments and residents of a state. Incorporated territories are considered part of the U.S., rather than possessions.[76]

The U.S. Supreme Court, in its 1901–1905 Insular Cases, ruled that the constitution extended to U.S. territories. The court also established the doctrine of territorial incorporation, in which the constitution applies fully to incorporated territories (such as the territories of Alaska and Hawaii) and partially in the unincorporated territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.[77][78]

The U.S. had no unincorporated territories (also known as overseas possessions or insular areas) until 1856. Congress enacted the Guano Islands Act that year, authorizing the president to take possession of unclaimed islands to mine guano. The U.S. has taken control of (and claimed rights on) many islands and atolls, especially in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, under this law; most have been abandoned. It also has acquired territories since 1856 under other circumstances, such as under the Treaty of Paris (1898) which ended the Spanish–American War. The Supreme Court considered the constitutional position of these unincorporated territories in Balzac v. People of Porto Rico, and said the following about a U.S. court in Puerto Rico:

The United States District Court is not a true United States court established under article 3 of the Constitution to administer the judicial power of the United States ... It is created ... by the sovereign congressional faculty, granted under article 4, 3, of that instrument, of making all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory belonging to the United States. The resemblance of its jurisdiction to that of true United States courts, in offering an opportunity to nonresidents of resorting to a tribunal not subject to local influence, does not change its character as a mere territorial court.[79]:312

In Glidden Company v. Zdanok, the court cited Balzac and said about courts in unincorporated territories: "Upon like considerations, Article III has been viewed as inapplicable to courts created in unincorporated territories outside the mainland ... and to the consular courts established by concessions from foreign countries ..."[80]:547 The judiciary determined that incorporation involves express declaration or an implication strong enough to exclude any other view, raising questions about Puerto Rico's status.[81]

In 1966, Congress made the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico an Article III district court. This (the only district court in a U.S. territory) sets Puerto Rico apart judicially from the other unincorporated territories, and U.S. district judge Gustavo Gelpi express the opinion that Puerto Rico is no longer unincorporated:

The court ... today holds that in the particular case of Puerto Rico, a monumental constitutional evolution based on continued and repeated congressional annexation has taken place. Given the same, the territory has evolved from an unincorporated to an incorporated one. Congress today, thus, must afford Puerto Rico and the 4,000,000 United States citizens residing therein all constitutional guarantees. To hold otherwise, would amount to the court blindfolding itself to continue permitting Congress per secula seculorum to switch on and off the Constitution.[82]

In Balzac, the court defined "implied":[79]:306

Had Congress intended to take the important step of changing the treaty status of Puerto Rico by incorporating it into the Union, it is reasonable to suppose that it would have done so by the plain declaration, and would not have left it to mere inference. Before the question became acute at the close of the Spanish War, the distinction between acquisition and incorporation was not regarded as important, or at least it was not fully understood and had not aroused great controversy. Before that, the purpose of Congress might well be a matter of mere inference from various legislative acts; but in these latter days, incorporation is not to be assumed without express declaration, or an implication so strong as to exclude any other view.

Supreme Court decisions about individual territories

In Rassmussen v. U.S., the Supreme Court quoted from Article III of the 1867 treaty for the purchase of Alaska and then said: "'The inhabitants of the ceded territory ... shall be admitted to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States ...' This declaration, although somewhat changed in phraseology, is the equivalent ... of the formula, employed from the beginning to express the purpose to incorporate acquired territory into the United States, especially in the absence of other provisions showing an intention to the contrary."[83]:522 The act of incorporation affects the people of the territory more than the territory per se by extending the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution to them, such as its extension to Puerto Rico in 1947; however, Puerto Rico remains unincorporated.[81]

The 2016 Supreme Court case Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle ruled that territories do not have sovereignty.[2] That year, the court declined to rule on a lower-court ruling in Tuana v. United States that American Samoans are not citizens at birth.[20][21]

Alaska Territory

Rassmussen arose from a criminal conviction by a six-person jury in Alaska under federal law. The court held that Alaska had been incorporated into the U.S. in the treaty of cession with Russia,[84] and the congressional implication was strong enough to exclude any other view:[83]:523

That Congress, shortly following the adoption of the treaty with Russia, clearly contemplated the incorporation of Alaska into the United States as a part thereof, we think plainly results from the act of July 20, 1868, concerning internal revenue taxation ... and the act of July 27, 1868 ... extending the laws of the United States relating to customs, commerce, and navigation over Alaska, and establishing a collection district therein ... And this is fortified by subsequent action of Congress, which it is unnecessary to refer to.

Concurring justice Henry Brown agreed:[83]:533–4

Apparently, acceptance of the territory is insufficient in the opinion of the court in this case, since the result that Alaska is incorporated into the United States is reached, not through the treaty with Russia, or through the establishment of a civil government there, but from the act ... extending the laws of the United States relating to the customs, commerce, and navigation over Alaska, and establishing a collection district there. Certain other acts are cited, notably the judiciary act ... making it the duty of this court to assign ... the several territories of the United States to particular Circuits.

Florida Territory

In Dorr v. U.S., the court quoted Chief Justice John Marshall from an earlier case:[85]:141–2

The 6th article of the treaty of cession contains the following provision: 'The inhabitants of the territories which His Catholic Majesty cedes the United States by this treaty shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States as soon as may be consistent with the principles of the Federal Constitution, and admitted to the enjoyment of the privileges, rights, and immunities of the citizens of the United States' ... This treaty is the law of the land, and admits the inhabitants of Florida to the enjoyment of the privileges, rights, and immunities of the citizens of the United States. It is unnecessary to inquire whether this is not their condition, independent of stipulation. They do not, however, participate in political power; they do not share in the government till Florida shall become a state. In the meantime Florida continues to be a territory of the United States, governed by virtue of that clause in the Constitution which empowers Congress "to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States."'

In Downes v. Bidwell, the court said: "The same construction was adhered to in the treaty with Spain for the purchase of Florida ... the 6th article of which provided that the inhabitants should 'be incorporated into the Union of the United States, as soon as may be consistent with the principles of the Federal Constitution.'"[86]:256

Southwest Territory

Justice Brown first mentioned incorporation in Downes:[86]:321–2

In view of this it cannot, it seems to me, be doubted that the United States continued to be composed of states and territories, all forming an integral part thereof and incorporated therein, as was the case prior to the adoption of the Constitution. Subsequently, the territory now embraced in the state of Tennessee was ceded to the United States by the state of North Carolina. In order to ensure the rights of the native inhabitants, it was expressly stipulated that the inhabitants of the ceded territory should enjoy all the rights, privileges, benefits, and advantages set forth in the ordinance of the late Congress for the government of the western territory of the United States.

Louisiana Territory

Louisiana Purchase7 1903 Issue-10c-crop
1904 stamp, the first U.S. stamp to commemorate a territory and depict a map

In Downes, the court said:

Owing to a new war between England and France being upon the point of breaking out, there was need for haste in the negotiations, and Mr. Livingston took the responsibility of disobeying his (Mr. Jefferson's) instructions, and, probably owing to the insistence of Bonaparte, consented to the 3d article of the treaty (with France to acquire the territory of Louisiana), which provided that "the inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States, and admitted as soon as possible, according to the principles of the Federal Constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States; and in the meantime they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and the religion which they profess." [8 Stat. at L. 202.] This evidently committed the government to the ultimate, but not to the immediate, admission of Louisiana as a state ...[86]:252

Organized territories

US.EEZ Pacific centered NOAA map
Map of the U.S. exclusive economic zone, showing the location of each territory

Organized territories are lands under federal sovereignty (but not part of any state) which were given a measure of self-rule by Congress through an organic act subject to the Congress's plenary powers under the territorial clause of the Constitution's Article Four, section 3.[87]

Former territories and administered areas

Unincorporated territories

  • Corn Islands (1914–1971): leased for 99 years under the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty, but returned to Nicaragua when the treaty was annulled in 1970.
  • Line Islands: disputed claim with the United Kingdom. U.S. claim to most of the islands was ceded to Kiribati upon its independence in 1979, but the U.S. retained Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll and Jarvis Island.
  •  Panama Canal Zone (1903–1979): sovereignty returned to Panama under the Torrijos-Carter Treaties of 1978. The U.S. retained a military base and control of the canal until December 31, 1999.
  • Philippine Islands (1898–1935) and the Commonwealth of the Philippines (1935–46): granted independence on July 4, 1946.
  • Phoenix Islands: disputed claim with the United Kingdom. U.S. claim ceded to Kiribati upon its independence in 1979. Baker and Howland Islands, sometimes considered part of this group, are retained by the U.S.
  • Quita Sueño Bank (1869–1981): claimed under the Guano Islands Act; claim abandoned in a September 7, 1981 treaty.
  • Roncador Bank (1856–1981): claimed under the Guano Islands Act; ceded to Colombia in September 7, 1981 treaty.
  • Serrana Bank: claimed under the Guano Islands Act; ceded to Colombia in September 7, 1981 treaty.
  • Swan Islands (1863–1972): claimed under the Guano Islands Act; ceded to Honduras in a 1972 treaty.

Under military government

  • Puerto Rico: April 11, 1899 – May 1, 1900
  • Philippines: August 14, 1898[88] – July 4, 1901
  • Guam: April 11, 1899 – July 1, 1950

Administered areas

Other zones

Public image

Representative Stephanie Murphy of Florida said about a 2018 bill to make Puerto Rico the 51st state, "The hard truth is that Puerto Rico’s lack of political power allows Washington to treat Puerto Rico like an afterthought, as the federal government’s inadequate preparation for and response to Hurricane Maria made crystal clear."[92] According to Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló, "Because we don’t have political power, because we don’t have representatives, [no] senators, no vote for president, we are treated as an afterthought."[93] Rosselló called Puerto Rico the "oldest, most populous colony in the world".[94]


Members of the House of Representatives

Aumua Amata Radewagen congressional photo

Amata Coleman Radewagen (American Samoa)

Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan

Gregorio Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands)

Official portrait of Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez

Jenniffer González (Puerto Rico)

Rep. Stacey E. Plaskett (VI)

Stacey Plaskett (U.S. Virgin Islands)

Territorial governors


Ricardo Rosselló (Puerto Rico)

Satellite images

Inhabited territories


Tutuila and Aunu'u (American Samoa)

Guam ali 2011364 lrg


Saipan from ISS 2

Saipan (Northern Mariana Islands)


Puerto Rico

St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Saint John (U.S. Virgin Islands)

Uninhabited territories (minor outlying islands)

BakerIsland ISS010

Baker Island

Howland island nasa

Howland Island


Jarvis Island

Johnston Atoll

Johnston Atoll

Kingman Reef - 2014-02-18 - Landsat 8 - 15m

Kingman Reef

Midway Atoll aerial photo 2008

Midway Atoll

Navassa ISS014

Navassa Island

Palmyra Atoll 2010-03-18, EO-1 ALI bands 5-4-3-1, 15m resolution

Palmyra Atoll

Wake Island

Wake Island



American Samoa

Guam - Location Map (2013) - GUM - UNOCHA


Northern Mariana Islands map

Northern Mariana Islands

Rico (1)

Puerto Rico

Virgin Islands-CIA WFB Map

U.S. Virgin Islands

USA Territories National Parks Map by Jacqueline Boss

States & Territories

See also


  1. ^ According to the 2016 Supreme Court ruling , territories are not sovereign.
  2. ^ Some residents of Sikaiana (also known as the Stewart Islands) believe that Sikaiana is part of the United States: "They base their claim on the assertion that the Stewart Islands were ceded to King Kamehameha IV and accepted by him as part of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1856 and, thus, were part of the Republic of Hawaii (which was declared in 1893) when it was annexed to the United States by law in 1898." However, Sikaiana was not included within "Hawaii and its dependencies".[4]
  3. ^ In Tuana v. United States, it was ruled that citizenship-at-birth is not a right in unincorporated regions of the U.S. — current citizenship-at-birth in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands is granted only because the U.S. Congress passed legislation granting citizenship to those territories. The Supreme Court declined to rule on the case.[20][21]
  4. ^ American Samoa, technically unorganized, is de facto organized.
  5. ^ Because Saipan is governed as a single municipality, most publications refer to the capital as "Saipan".
  6. ^ U.S. sovereignty took effect on November 3, 1986 (Eastern Time) and on November 4, 1986 (local Northern Mariana Islands Chamorro Time).[33]
  7. ^ The revised constitution of American Samoa was approved on June 2, 1967 by Stewart L. Udall, then U.S. Secretary of the Interior, under authority granted on June 29, 1951. It became effective on July 1, 1967.[39]
  8. ^ 2017 poverty rate;[11] in 2009, American Samoa's poverty rate was 57.8%[58]
  9. ^ 2017 rate.
  10. ^ American Samoa is divided into 14 counties, but the U.S. Census Bureau treats them as minor civil divisions.[59][60]


  1. ^ "Definition of Terms - 1120 Acquisition of U.S. Nationality in U.S. Territories and Possessions". U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 7- Consular Affairs. U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2016-01-10.
  2. ^ a b Wolf, Richard (June 9, 2016). "Puerto Rico not sovereign, Supreme Court says". USA Today. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  3. ^ "Definitions of Insular Area Political Organizations". U.S. Department of the Interior. June 12, 2015.
  4. ^ U.S. Insular Areas. Application of the U.S. Constitution (PDF) (Report). United States General Accounting Office. November 1997. p. 39. Retrieved September 19, 2018.
  5. ^ Van Dyke, Jon M.; Richardson, William S. (March 23, 2007). "Unresolved Maritime Boundary Problems in the Caribbean" (PDF). Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  6. ^ "Bajo Nuevo Bank (Petrel Islands) and Serranilla Bank". Wondermondo.com. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  7. ^ United States Summary, 2010: Population and housing unit counts. U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau. 2012.
  8. ^ Smith, Gary Alden (February 28, 2011). State and National Boundaries of the United States. McFarland. p. 170. ISBN 9781476604343.
  9. ^ Gold, Susan Dudley (September 2010). Missouri Compromise. Marshall Cavendish. p. 33. ISBN 9781608700417.
  10. ^ Murph, Darren. "The most expensive internet in America: fighting to bring affordable broadband to American Samoa". Engadget. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Sagapolutele, Fili (March 2, 2017). "American Samoa Governor Says Small Economies 'Cannot Afford Any Reduction In Medicaid' | Pacific Islands Report". www.pireport.org. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  12. ^ "Poverty Determination in U.S. Insular Areas" (PDF). Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  13. ^ Bartholomew H. Sparrow (2005). Sanford Levinson; Bartholomew H. Sparrow (eds.). The Louisiana Purchase and American Expansion, 1803–1898. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-7425-4984-5. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
  14. ^ a b "8 FAM 301.1 (U) ACQUISITION BY BIRTH IN THE UNITED STATES". State Department Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM). Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  15. ^ "Executive Order 13423—Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management" (PDF). United States Department of State. § 9(l).
  16. ^ a b c d "American Samoa and the Citizenship Clause: A Study in Insular Cases Revisionism". Harvard Law Review. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  17. ^ Nativity by Place of Birth and Citizenship Status, United States Census, 2010.
  18. ^ a b 8 FAM 301.1-1(b). State Department Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) Vol 8. However, as reported in Samoa lawsuit, Newsweek, July 13, 2012. viewed December 16, 2012.
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External links

Cherokee Strip (Kansas)

The Cherokee Strip of Kansas, in the United States, was a disputed strip of land on the southern border of the state.

Dependent territory

A dependent territory, dependent area or dependency is a territory that does not possess full political independence or sovereignty as a sovereign state yet remains politically outside the controlling state's integral area.A dependency is commonly distinguished from country subdivisions by not being considered to be integral territory of the governing state. Administrative subdivisions instead are understood as typically representing a division of the state proper. A dependent territory conversely often maintains a great degree of autonomy from the controlling central state. Historically, most colonies were considered dependencies. Those dependent territories currently remaining generally maintain a very high degree of political autonomy. Not all autonomous entities, though, are considered to be dependencies, and not all dependencies are autonomous. Most inhabited dependent territories have their own ISO 3166 country codes.

Some political entities inhabit a special position guaranteed by international treaty or other agreement: creating a certain level of autonomy (e.g., differences in immigration rules). These are sometimes considered or at least grouped with dependencies, but are officially considered by their controlling states to be integral parts of the state. Examples are Åland (Finland) and Hong Kong (China).

District of Maine

The District of Maine was the governmental designation for what is now the U.S. state of Maine from October 25, 1780 to March 15, 1820, when it was admitted to the Union as the 23rd state. The district was a part of the state of Massachusetts (which prior to the American Revolution was the British Province of Massachusetts Bay).

Florida Parishes

The Florida Parishes (Spanish: Parroquias de Florida, French: Paroisses de Floride), on the east side of Mississippi River — an area also known as the Northshore or Northlake region — are eight parishes in southeast Louisiana, United States, which were part of West Florida in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Unlike most of the state, this region was not part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase; it had been under British and then Spanish control since 1763.

Historic regions of the United States

This is a list of historic regions of the United States that existed at some time during the territorial evolution of the United States and its overseas possessions, from the colonial era to the present day. It includes formally organized territories, proposed and failed states, unrecognized breakaway states, international and interstate purchases, cessions, and land grants, and historical military departments and administrative districts. The last section lists informal regions from American vernacular geography known by popular nicknames and linked by geographical, cultural, or economic similarities, some of which are still in use today.

For a more complete list of regions and subdivisions of the United States used in modern times, see List of regions of the United States.

Iowa Territory

The Territory of Iowa was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 4, 1838, until December 28, 1846, when the southeastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Iowa. The remainder of the territory would have no organized territorial government until the Minnesota Territory was organized on March 3, 1849.

List of states and territories of the United States

The United States of America is a federal republic consisting of 50 states, a federal district (Washington, D.C., the capital city of the United States), five major territories, and various minor islands. The 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico; the two other states, Alaska and Hawaii, are in the northwestern part of North America and an archipelago in the mid-Pacific, respectively, while the territories are scattered throughout the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

States are the primary subdivisions of the United States, and possess a number of powers and rights under the United States Constitution, such as regulating intrastate commerce, running elections, creating local governments, and ratifying constitutional amendments. Each state has its own constitution, grounded in republican principles, and government, consisting of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. All states and their residents are represented in the federal Congress, a bicameral legislature consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Each state is represented by two senators, while representatives are distributed among the states in proportion to the most recent constitutionally mandated decennial census. Additionally, each state is entitled to select a number of electors to vote in the Electoral College, the body that elects the president of the United States, equal to the total of representatives and senators in Congress from that state. Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution grants to Congress the authority to admit new states into the Union. Since the establishment of the United States in 1776, the number of states has expanded from the original 13 to the current total of 50, and each new state is admitted on an equal footing with the existing states.As provided by Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, Congress exercises "exclusive jurisdiction" over the federal district, which is not part of any state. Prior to passage of the 1973 District of Columbia Home Rule Act, which devolved certain Congressional powers to an elected mayor and council, the district did not have an elected local government. Even so, Congress retains the right to review and overturn laws created by the council and intervene in local affairs. As it is not a state, the district does not have representation in the Senate. However, since 1971, its residents have been represented in the House of Representatives by a non-voting delegate. Additionally, since 1961, following ratification of the 23rd Amendment, the district has been entitled to select three electors to vote in the Electoral College.

In addition to the 50 states and federal district, the United States has sovereignty over 14 territories. Five of them (American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) have a permanent, nonmilitary population, while nine of them do not. With the exception of Navassa Island, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which are located in the Caribbean, all territories are located in the Pacific Ocean. One territory, Palmyra Atoll, is considered to be incorporated, meaning the full body of the Constitution has been applied to it; the other territories are unincorporated, meaning the Constitution does not fully apply to them. Ten territories (the Minor Outlying Islands and American Samoa) are considered to be unorganized, meaning they have not had an Organic Act enacted by Congress; the four other territories are organized, meaning they have had an Organic Act that has been enacted by Congress. The five inhabited territories each have limited autonomy and a non-voting delegate in Congress, in addition to having territorial legislatures and governors, but residents cannot vote in federal elections.

California is the most populous state, with 38,332,521 residents (2013 estimate); Wyoming is the least populous, with an estimated 582,658 residents. The District of Columbia, with an estimated 646,449 residents as of 2012, has a higher population than the two least populous states (Wyoming and Vermont). The largest state by area is Alaska, encompassing 665,384 square miles (1,723,340 km2), while the smallest is Rhode Island, encompassing 1,545 square miles (4,000 km2). The first state to ratify the current Constitution was Delaware, which it did on December 7, 1787, while the newest state is Hawaii, which was admitted to the Union on August 21, 1959. The largest territory in terms of both population and size is Puerto Rico, with 3,725,789 residents as of the 2010 Census and a total area of 5,325 square miles (13,790 km2).

List of states and territories of the United States by population

The states and territories included in the United States Census Bureau's statistics include the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five permanently inhabited unincorporated island territories, including Puerto Rico.As of April 1, 2010, the date of the 2010 United States Census, the 9 most populous U.S. states contain slightly more than half of the total population. The 25 least populous states contain less than one-sixth of the total population. California, the most populous state, contains more people than the 21 least populous states combined, and Wyoming, the least populous state, has a population less than that of the 31st most populous U.S. cities.

List of states and territories of the United States by population density

This article includes a sortable table listing the 50 states, the territories, and the District of Columbia by population density, population rank, and land area. It also includes a sortable table of density by states, territories, divisions and regions by population rank and land area, and a sortable table for density by states, divisions, regions and territories in square miles and square kilometers.

Population density is calculated as resident population divided by total land area. Resident population is from the United States Census Bureau estimates for July 1, 2015 (for the 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico), and from the 2015 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs for territories besides Puerto Rico. In the second table, territories data (except Puerto Rico) is from the 2010 Census. Total land area is from the 2010 Census.The population density of the United States is relatively low compared to many other developed countries due to its size. For example, the population density of the U.S. is one-twelfth that of the Netherlands and one-fifteenth that of South Korea.

Minnesota Territory

The Territory of Minnesota was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from March 3, 1849, until May 11, 1858, when the eastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Minnesota.

Missouri Territory

The Territory of Missouri was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from June 4, 1812 until August 10, 1821. In 1819, the Territory of Arkansas was created from a portion of its southern area. In 1821, a southeastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Missouri, and the rest became unorganized territory for several years.

Organized incorporated territories of the United States

Organized incorporated territories are territories of the United States that are both incorporated (part of the United States proper) and organized (having an organized government authorized by an Organic Act passed by the U.S. Congress, usually consisting of a territorial legislature, territorial governor, and a basic judicial system). There have been no such territories since Alaska and Hawaii were admitted as states in 1959.

Through most of U.S. history, regions that were admitted as U.S. states were, prior to admission, territories or parts of territories of this kind. As the United States grew, the most populous parts of the organized territory would achieve statehood. The remainder frequently kept at least some of the governing structure of the old legal entity (territory) and would be renamed to avoid confusion.

Some territories existed only a short time before becoming states, while others remained territories for decades. The shortest-lived was Alabama Territory at two years, while New Mexico Territory and Hawaii Territory both lasted more than 50 years.

Prostitution in Guam

Prostitution in Guam is illegal but is practised covertly, especially in massage parlours. Although massage parlours are sometimes raided, generally the authorities turn a blind eye.


Trans-Mississippi was a common name of the geographic area west of the Mississippi River during the 19th century. The area included Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), and many other territories.

The geographical term is generally used today only in matters relating to the study of the American Civil War. The term, "Trans-Mississippi," however, was historically used to refer to any land 'across the Mississippi' (or the entire western two-thirds of the United States). In 1898, a Trans-Mississippi Exposition was held at Kountze Park in Omaha, Nebraska.

Unincorporated territories of the United States

Under United States law, an unincorporated territory is an area controlled by the United States government that is not "incorporated" for the purposes of United States constitutional law. In unincorporated territories, the U.S. Constitution applies only partially. In the absence of an organic law, a territory is classified as unorganized. In unincorporated territories, "fundamental rights apply as a matter of law, but other constitutional rights are not available". Selected constitutional provisions apply, depending on congressional acts and judicial rulings according to U.S. constitutional practice, local tradition, and law.There are currently 13 unincorporated territories, comprising a land area of approximately 12,000 square kilometers (4,600 square miles) containing a population of approximately four million people; Puerto Rico alone comprises the vast majority of both the total area and total population.Of the 13 territories, five are inhabited. These are either organized or self-governing but unincorporated. These are Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. There are also nine uninhabited U.S. possessions, of which only Palmyra Atoll is incorporated. (See Territories of the United States, Unorganized territory and insular area.)

United States of Colombia

The United States of Colombia (Spanish: Estados Unidos de Colombia) was the name adopted in 1861 by the Rionegro Constitution for the Granadine Confederation, after years of civil war. Colombia became a federal state itself composed of nine "sovereign states.” It comprised the present-day nations of Colombia and Panama and parts of northwestern Brazil. After several more years of intermittent civil wars, it was replaced by the more centralist Republic of Colombia in 1886, predecessor to modern Colombia.

Unorganized territory

In the United States, an unorganized territory is a region of land without a "normally" constituted system of government. This does not mean that the territory has no government at all or that it is unclaimed territory. In practice, such territories are always sparsely populated.

Historically, the term "unorganized territory" was applied to an area in which there was no effective government control of affairs on a day-to-day basis, such as the former U.S. territories where the government exerted only transient control when its forces were actually present. In modern usage it indicates an area in which local government does not exist, or exists only in embryonic form. However the area is still, at least in theory, governed by the nation of which it forms part, or by a smaller unit of that nation.

These lightly governed regions were common in the 19th century during the growth of United States. Large tracts such as the Louisiana Territory, Missouri Territory and the Oregon Country were established by Congress. Later, a portion of a territory would organize and achieve the requirements for statehood, leaving the remainder "unorganized".

Utah Territory

The Territory of Utah was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from September 9, 1850, until January 4, 1896, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Utah, the 45th state.

West Jersey

West Jersey and East Jersey were two distinct parts of the Province of New Jersey. The political division existed for 28 years, between 1674 and 1702. Determination of an exact location for a border between West Jersey and East Jersey was often a matter of dispute.

Federal district
Insular areas
Outlying islands
Indian reservations
United States articles

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