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Requirements to Serve as President of the United States

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The White House
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What are the constitutional requirements to serve as President of the United States? Forget the nerves of steel, the charisma, the skeleton-free closet, the fund-raising network, the thick skin and the legions of loyal folks who agree with your stance on all the issues. Just to get into the game, you have to ask: How old are you and where were you born?

  • Only native-born U.S. citizens (or those born abroad, but only to parents who were both citizens of the U.S.) may be president of the United States, though from time to time that requirement is called into question, most recently after Arnold Schwarzenegger, born in Austria, was elected governor of California, in 2003. The Constitution originally provided a small loophole to this provision: One needn't have been born in the United States but had to be a citizen at the time the Constitution was adopted. But, since that occurred in 1789, that ship has sailed.

  • One must also be at least 35 years of age to be president. John F. Kennedy was the youngest person to be elected president; he was 43 years old when he was inaugurated in 1961. There is no maximum age limit set forth in the Constitution. Ronald Reagan was the oldest president; at the end of his term in 1988, he was nearly 77.

  • Finally, one must live in the United States for at least 14 years to be president, in addition to being a natural-born citizen. The Constitution is vague on this point. For example, it does not make clear whether those 14 years need to be consecutive or what the precise definition of residency is. So far, however, this requirement has not been challenged.

These are the only explicit criteria in the Constitution.

Phaedra Trethan is a freelance writer and a former copy editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper.

Also See:
The Executive Branch of Government
The Branches of Government
About Presidential Succession
Federalist Papers on the Executive Branch

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How the Electoral College Works

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