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".[1] Selected constitutional provisions apply, depending on congressional acts and judicial rulings according to U.S. constitutional practice, local tradition, and law.

There are currently thirteen 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 thirteen territories, five are inhabited. These are either organized or self-governing[2] but unincorporated. These are Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.[3] There are also nine uninhabited U.S. possessions, of which only Palmyra Atoll is incorporated. (See Territories of the United States, Unorganized territory[4] and insular area.)


All modern inhabited territories under the control of the federal government can be considered as part of the "United States" for purposes of law as defined in specific legislation.[5] However, the judicial term "unincorporated" was coined to legitimize the late–19th-century territorial acquisitions without citizenship and their administration without constitutional protections temporarily until Congress made other provisions. The case law allowed Congress to impose discriminatory tax regimes with the effect of a protective tariff upon territorial regions which were not domestic states.[6]

From 1901 to 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a series of opinions known as the Insular Cases, held that the Constitution extended ex proprio vigore (i.e., of its own force) to the continental territories. However, the Court in these cases also established the doctrine of territorial incorporation, under which the Constitution applies fully only in incorporated territories such as Alaska and Hawaii, and applies only partially in the new unincorporated territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.[7][8]

To define what is an unincorporated territory, in Balzac v. People of Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922), the Court used the following statements regarding the 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 therein conveyed. It is created by virtue of 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.[9]

In Glidden Co. v. Zdanok, 370 U.S. 530 (1962) the court cited Balzac and made the following statement regarding courts in unincorporated territories:

Upon like considerations, Article III has been viewed as inapplicable to courts created in unincorporated territories outside the mainland, Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244, 266–267; Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298, 312–313; cf. Dorr v. United States, 195 U.S. 138, 145, 149, and to the consular courts established by concessions from foreign countries, In re Ross, 140 U.S. 453, 464–465, 480. 18

"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;"[10] "This declaration, although somewhat changed in phraseology, is the equivalent, as pointed out in Downes v. Bidwell, 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."[10]

List of unincorporated territories


Territory Population Area (km2) Area (sq mi) Region
American Samoa[2] 55,519 197.1 km2 75.1 sq mi Pacific
Guam 159,358[11] 541.3 km2 209.0 sq mi Pacific
Northern Mariana Islands 53,883 463.63 km2 179.01 sq mi Pacific
Puerto Rico[1] 3,474,182 9,104 km2 3,515 sq mi Caribbean
United States Virgin Islands 109,750 346.36 km2 133.73 sq mi Caribbean
Baker Island Uninhabited 2.1 km2 0.8 sq mi Pacific
Howland Island Uninhabited 1.8 km2 0.7 sq mi Pacific
Jarvis Island Uninhabited 4.5 km2 1.7 sq mi Pacific
Johnston Atoll Uninhabited 2.67 km2 1.03 sq mi Pacific
Kingman Reef Uninhabited 76 km2 29 sq mi Pacific
Midway Atoll (administered as a National Wildlife Refuge) Uninhabited 6.2 km2 2.4 sq mi Pacific
Navassa Island (disputed with Haiti) Uninhabited 5.2 km2 2.0 sq mi Caribbean
Wake Island c. 150 non-permanent 7.38 km2 2.85 sq mi Pacific
Total 4,085,200 12,272.24 km2 4,738.34 sq mi
Territory Population Area Area Region



August 28, 1867
Captain William Reynolds of the USS Lackawanna formally took possession of the Midway Atoll for the United States.[12]
April 11, 1899
The Treaty of Paris of 1898 came into effect, transferring Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico from Spain to the United States, all three becoming unorganized, unincorporated territories. Puerto Rico's official name was changed to Porto Rico, a phonetic reinterpretation of the Spanish name for the territory.
April 12, 1900
The Foraker Act organized Puerto Rico.[13]
June 7, 1900
The United States took control of the portion of the Samoan Islands given to it by the Treaty of Berlin of 1899, creating the unorganized, unincorporated territory of American Samoa.
April 1, 1901
General Emilio Aguinaldo, the Filipino leader in the Philippine–American War and President of the Malolos Republic, surrendered to the United States, allowing the U.S. to form a civilian government for the Philippines.
February 23, 1903
Under the terms of a 1903 lease agreement, the United States came to exercise complete control over Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, while Cuba retained ultimate sovereignty over the territory.
August 29, 1916
The Philippine Autonomy Act or Jones Law was signed, promising the Philippines independence.
March 2, 1917
Jones–Shafroth Act reorganized Puerto Rico. This act conferred United States citizenship on all citizens of Puerto Rico.
March 31, 1917
The United States purchased the U.S. Virgin Islands under the terms of a treaty with Denmark.[14]
May 17, 1932
The name of Porto Rico was changed to Puerto Rico.[15]
March 24, 1934
The Tydings–McDuffie Act was signed allowing the creation of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.
July 4, 1946
The United States recognized Philippine independence.
July 14, 1947
The United Nations granted the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands to the United States, consisting primarily of many islands fought over during World War II, and including what is now the Marshall Islands, the Carolina Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Northern Mariana Islands, and Palau. It was a trusteeship, and not a territory of the United States.
August 5, 1947
The Privileges and Immunities Clause regarding the rights, privileges, and immunities of citizens of the United States was expressly extended to Puerto Rico by the U.S. Congress through federal law codified in Title 48 the United States Code as 48 U.S.C. § 737 and signed by President Harry S. Truman. This law indicates that the rights, privileges, and immunities of citizens of the United States shall be respected in Puerto Rico to the same extent as though Puerto Rico were a State of the Union and subject to the provisions of paragraph 1 of section 2 of article IV of the Constitution of the United States.
July 1, 1950
The Guam Organic Act came into effect, organizing Guam as an unincorporated territory.[16]
July 25, 1952
Puerto Rico became a Commonwealth of the United States, an unincorporated organized territory, with the ratification of its constitution.[15]
July 22, 1954
The Organic Act for the United States Virgin Islands went into effect, making them an unincorporated, organized territory.[16]
July 1, 1967
American Samoa's constitution became effective. Even though no Organic Act was passed, this move to self-government made American Samoa similar to an organized territory.[16]
September 12, 1967
Article Three of the United States Constitution, was expressly extended to the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico by the U.S. Congress through the federal law 89-571, 80 Stat. 764, this law was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
January 1, 1978
The Northern Mariana Islands left the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands to become a commonwealth of the United States, making it unincorporated and organized.[16][17]
October 21, 1986
The Marshall Islands attained independence from the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, though the trusteeship granted by the United Nations technically did not end until December 22, 1990. The Marshall Islands remained in free association with the United States.
November 3, 1986
The Federated States of Micronesia attained independence from the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and remained in free association with the United States.
December 22, 1990
The United Nations terminated the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands for all but the Palau district.
May 25, 1994
The United Nations terminated the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands for the Palau district, ending the territory, making Palau de facto independent, as it was not a territory of the United States.
October 1, 1994
Palau attained de jure independence, but it remained in free association with the United States.[18]
December 11, 2012
The Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico enacted a concurrent resolution to request the President and the Congress of the United States to respond diligently and effectively, and to act on the demand of the people of Puerto Rico, as freely and democratically expressed in the plebiscite held on November 6, 2012, to end, once and for all, its current form of territorial status and to begin the process to admit Puerto Rico to the Union as a State.[19]

See also


  1. ^ U.S. Insular Areas Application of the U.S. Constitution, GAO Nov 1997 Report, p. 24. Viewed June 14, 2013.
  2. ^ a b American Samoa remains technically unorganized, since the U.S. Congress has not passed an Organic Act for the territory, but is self-governing under a constitution that became effective on July 1, 1967.
  3. ^ "Puerto Rico - territories of the United States". Puerto Rico Government. Government of the United States of America. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  4. ^ Definitions of insular area political organizations Archived September 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, "Unincorporated territory". Viewed June 14, 2013, and Government Accountability Office (GAO) Nov 1997 Report, U.S. Insular Areas Application of the U.S. Constitution, p. 35. Viewed June 14, 2013.
  5. ^ See 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(36) and 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(38) Providing the term "State" and "United States" definitions on the U.S. Federal Code, Immigration and Nationality Act. 8 U.S.C. § 1101a
  6. ^ Vignarajah, Krishanti. Political roots of judicial legitimacy: explaining the enduring validity of the ‘Insular Cases’. Archived May 14, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, University of Chicago Law Review, 2010, p. 790. Viewed June 13, 2013.
  7. ^ Consejo de Salud Playa de Ponce v. Johnny Rullan, Secretary of Health of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico pp. 6–7. Viewed June 19, 2013.
  8. ^ The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid (2007) Juan R. Torruella (PDF), retrieved February 5, 2010
  9. ^ Balzac v. People of Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922)
  10. ^ a b Rassmussen v. U S, 197 U.S. 516 (1905)
  11. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau Releases 2010 Census Population Counts for Guam". 2010 Census. US Census. August 24, 2011. Archived from the original on September 24, 2011. Retrieved September 12, 2010.
  12. ^ Midway Islands History. Janeresture.com. Retrieved on July 19, 2013.
  13. ^ The World Almanac & Book of Facts 1901, p93
  14. ^ "Transfer Day". Archived from the original on June 28, 2007. Retrieved August 10, 2006.
  15. ^ a b "Municipalities of Puerto Rico". Statoids. Retrieved August 10, 2006.
  16. ^ a b c d "Relationship with the Insular Areas". U.S. Department of the Interior. Archived from the original on May 26, 2006. Retrieved August 10, 2006.
  17. ^ "Municipalities of Northern Mariana Islands". Statoids. Retrieved August 10, 2006.
  18. ^ "Background Note: Palau". Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Retrieved August 10, 2006.
  19. ^ The Senate and the House of Representative of Puerto Rico Concurrent Resolution


^1 Scholars agreed as of 2009 in the Boston College Law Review, "Regardless of how Puerto Rico looked in 1901 when the Insular Cases were decided, or in 1922, today, Puerto Rico seems to be the paradigm of an incorporated territory as modern jurisprudence understands that legal term of art".[1] In November 2008 a district court judge ruled that a sequence of prior Congressional actions had the cumulative effect of changing Puerto Rico's status to incorporated.[2]
  1. ^ Lawson, Gary, and Sloane, Robert. Puerto Rico’s legal status reconsidered Archived July 14, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, p. 53. Viewed June 21, 2013.
  2. ^ Consejo de Salud Playa Ponce v. Johnny Rullan, p. 28: "The Congressional incorporation of Puerto Rico throughout the past century has extended the entire Constitution to the island ...."
Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina

The Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina (Spanish: Archipiélago de San Andrés, Providencia y Santa Catalina, pronounced [aɾtʃiˈpjelaɣo ðe ˌsan anˈdɾes pɾoβiˈðensja i ˌsanta kataˈlina]), or, in everyday language, San Andrés y Providencia, is one of the departments of Colombia. It consists of two island groups about 775 km (482 mi) northwest of mainland Colombia, and eight outlying banks and reefs. The largest island of the archipelago is called San Andrés and its capital is San Andrés. The other large islands are Providencia and Santa Catalina Islands which lie to the north-east of San Andrés; their capital is Santa Isabel.

Balzac v. Porto Rico

Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that certain provisions of the U.S. Constitution did not apply to territories not incorporated into the union. It originated when Jesús M. Balzac was prosecuted for criminal libel in a district court of Puerto Rico. Balzac declared that his rights had been violated under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as he was denied a trial by jury since the code of criminal procedure of Puerto Rico did not grant a jury trial in misdemeanor cases. In the appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the lower courts on the island in deciding that the provisions of the Constitution did not apply to a territory that belonged to the United States but was not incorporated into the Union. It has become known as one of the "Insular Cases".

Bureau of Insular Affairs

The Bureau of Insular Affairs was a division of the United States Department of War that oversaw civil aspects of the administration of several territories from 1898 until 1939.

Divided regions

Divided regions are transnational regions, islands, etc. (i.e. areas that are known under a common name) that may have at one time been a united sovereign state but are or have been subsequently politically divided by national borders, into separate sovereign and/or administrative divisions. The later qualification includes many reorganized regions within nation states blurring the pure "transnational" distinction, but retaining the sense of a historic region once governed together which is significant both historically and culturally.

Typically the divided parts still retain the common geographical placename, or a variation thereof, and may or may not be subject to irrendentist claims and territorial disputes. They are by their very nature situated in border areas.

Divided regions frequently have close cultural, economic and transportation ties and not infrequently authorities or commissions which smooth the process of co-operative efforts across their common borders.

Google Street View in Oceania

In Oceania, Google Street View is available in most parts of Australia and New Zealand.

On 4 August 2008, the long-anticipated image collection of Australia was introduced. At this time, 18 camera icons were added. Extensive mapping of New Zealand was included on 1 December 2008. On 9 December 2008, Darwin, Australia, and other locations were included.

On 30 October 2009, Google Australia announced that they would be sending its fleet of cars back on the road from November 2009 to update Street View Australia with new images.

In October 2010, Google Street View ceased operations in Australia after its Street View cars were found to have been collecting Wi-Fi data from home Wi-Fi networks. In May 2011, Google Australia stated that they had removed all the Wi-Fi sniffing equipment and that they planned to shoot Australian roads again, but did not provide a specific timetable. On 27 July 2011, major urban and regional centres of Australia were updated with the new HD imagery.

In February 2015 another update of Australia with HD imagery was released, as part of the first update in Northern Territory after the low-resolution imagery. It also affected parts of Western Australia and Queensland. However, some places still have only low-resolution imagery or don't even have Street View coverage at all. As of June 2015, the updates of Australia footage are ongoing.

Index of United States-related articles

The following is an alphabetical list of articles related to the United States of America.

LGBT rights in Oceania

Oceania is, like other regions, quite diverse in its laws regarding homosexuality. This ranges from significant rights granted to the LGBT community in New Zealand, Australia, Guam, Hawaii, the Northern Mariana Islands, Wallis and Futuna, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and the Pitcairn Islands to remaining criminal penalties for homosexual activity in 6 countries and one territory. Although acceptance is growing across the Pacific, violence and social stigma remain issues for LGBTI communities. This also leads to problems with healthcare, including access to HIV treatment in countries such as Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands where homosexuality is criminalised.The British Empire introduced conservative social attitudes and anti-LGBT laws throughout its colonies, including those located in the Pacific Ocean. Opponents of LGBT rights in Oceania have justified their stance by arguing it is supported by tradition and that homosexuality is a "Western vice", despite anti-LGBT laws themselves being a colonial British legacy. Several Pacific countries have ancient traditions predating colonisation that reflect a unique local perspective of sexuality and gender, such as the fa'afafine in Samoa and fakaleiti in Tonga.

== Legislation by country or territory ==

==== Australasia ====

==== Melanesia ====

==== Micronesia ====

==== Polynesia ====

List of beaches in the United States

The following is list of beaches in the states and unincorporated territories of the United States.

List of lowest-income counties in the United States

This is a list of the lowest-income counties in the United States.

Note: This list does not include unincorporated territories of the United States.

List of lowest-income places in the United States

According to the United States Census Bureau, the following are the places in the United States with the lowest per capita or median household income. Locations with populations from the 2010 census are ranked by median household income as surveyed between 2008 and 2012. For comparison, locations are next listed with populations per capita income from the 2000 census. The most sizable community in 2000 (with a population of 13,138) was Kiryas Joel, New York which had a per capita income of just $4,355. In terms of geographic size, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the adjacent Rosebud Indian Reservation (Lakota Sioux Reservations, South Dakota) have long been among the lowest income areas in the United States. Three of the ten lowest per capita income locations in the U.S. are on these two reservations, which constitute the three largest populations in the bottom ten locations.

Note: This list does not include unincorporated territories of the United States.

List of men's national association football teams

This is a list of the men's national association football teams in the world. There are more nations with football teams than for any other sport, with teams representing 191 of the 193 UN member states, as well as several dependent territories, sub-national entities, and states who are not members of the United Nations. This list divides teams into two main groups:

Teams which are either members of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the world's football governing body (211 teams), or have membership in a FIFA-affiliated continental confederation without being members of FIFA (12 teams).

Teams who are not members of FIFA or any continental federation, but which represent sovereign states. This group includes United Nations members and observer states, as well as states who are not members of the UN (11 teams).This list excludes other teams, which generally play outside FIFA's recognition. Excluded teams include those who represent ethnic groups, sub-national entities and dependent territories other than those recognized by FIFA or its confederations, competitors at the Island Games, unrecognized states, separatist movements, and pseudo- or micro-nations.

List of radio stations in U.S. Territories

The following are lists of FCC-licensed radio stations in the unincorporated territories of the United States, which can be sorted by their call signs, frequencies, cities of license, licensees, and programming formats.

List of sovereign states and dependent territories in North America

This is an alphabetical list of sovereign states and dependent territories in North America. This list uses the most inclusive definition of North America, which covers the landmass north of the Panama-Colombia border, and the islands of the Caribbean. North America is the northern continent of the Americas, situated in Earth's Northern Hemisphere and almost totally in the Western Hemisphere. It is bordered on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by the North Atlantic Ocean, on the southeast by the Caribbean Sea, and on the west by the North Pacific Ocean; South America lies to the southeast.

Persistent poverty county

A persistent poverty county is a classification for counties in the United States that have had a relatively high rate of poverty over a long period.

A 2011 U.S. federal law defined a persistent poverty county as one in which "20 percent or more of its population [has lived] in poverty over the past 30 years" according to the Census, which is done every 10 years. The Economic Research Service (ERS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture categorizes non-metropolitan counties by their dominant economic foundation and by characteristic policy type. Persistent poverty counties are defined as those where 20% or more of the county population in each of the last four decennial Censuses had poverty level household incomes.In 2000, there were 386 such counties concentrated largely in the Delta South, Central Appalachia, Rio Grande Valley, the Northern Great Plains, and western Alaska. The average poverty rate in these counties was approximately 29% in 1989.

Many of these counties are served by the Delta Regional Authority or Appalachian Regional Commission.

Note: This data does not include unincorporated territories of the United States.

Political history of the Philippines

The Political history of the Philippines are chronicles which describes the history of the islands, starting from the beginning of civilization and up to the present day period.

U.S. state

In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders (e.g., paroled convicts and children of divorced spouses who are sharing custody). Four states (Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) use the term commonwealth rather than state in their full official names.

States are divided into counties or county-equivalents, which may be assigned some local governmental authority but are not sovereign. County or county-equivalent structure varies widely by state, and states may also create other local governments. State governments are allocated power by the people (of each respective state) through their individual constitutions. All are grounded in republican principles, and each provides for a government, consisting of three branches, each with separate and independent powers: executive, legislative, and judicial.States possess a number of powers and rights under the United States Constitution. States and their residents are represented in the United States Congress, a bicameral legislature consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Each state is also entitled to select a number of electors (equal to the total number of representatives and senators from that state) to vote in the Electoral College, the body that directly elects the President of the United States. Additionally, each state has the opportunity to ratify constitutional amendments, and, with the consent of Congress, two or more states may enter into interstate compacts with one another.

Historically, the tasks of local law enforcement, public education, public health, regulating intrastate commerce, and local transportation and infrastructure have generally been considered primarily state responsibilities, although all of these now have significant federal funding and regulation as well. Over time, the Constitution has been amended, and the interpretation and application of its provisions have changed. The general tendency has been toward centralization and incorporation, with the federal government playing a much larger role than it once did. There is a continuing debate over states' rights, which concerns the extent and nature of the states' powers and sovereignty in relation to the federal government and the rights of individuals.

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 50. Alaska and Hawaii are the most recent states admitted, both in 1959. The Constitution is silent on the question of whether states have the power to secede (withdraw) from the Union. Shortly after the Civil War, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Texas v. White, held that a state cannot unilaterally do so.


Unincorporated may refer to:

Unincorporated area, land not governed by a local municipality

Unincorporated entity, a type of organization

Unincorporated territories of the United States, territories under U.S. jurisdiction, to which Congress has determined that only select parts of the U.S. Constitution apply

Unincorporated association, also known as voluntary association, groups organized to accomplish a purpose

Unincorporated (album), a 2001 album by Earl Harvin Trio

United States territory

United States territory is any extent of region under the sovereign jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, including all waters (around islands or continental tracts) and all U.S. naval vessels. The United States asserts sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its territory. This extent of territory is all the area belonging to, and under the dominion of, the United States federal government (which includes tracts lying at a distance from the country) for administrative and other purposes. The United States total territory includes a subset of political divisions.

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".

Federal district
Insular areas
Outlying islands
Indian reservations

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.