If a baby was born on the ISS, what would its nationality be? Many countries grant citizenship to any baby born within their territory, but the ISS is not national territory ... or is it? If a spacecraft belonged to one nation, citizenship would likely be extended by that nation, as happens on a ship at sea.

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    $\begingroup$ One question per post, please. The legal and medical aspects are two different questions. This is also extremely hypothetical; there are no reasonable circumstances that would result in someone giving birth on the ISS. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 1:39
  • $\begingroup$ In terms of OG to a human baby, it seems no mammal has been born in space space.stackexchange.com/q/40363/26356 but results for other animals suggest a live birth without special care is unlikely. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 1:46
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    $\begingroup$ This is a weird case where this is a very good edit that resolved the 'too broad' issue and, I suspect, reflects the OP's true intent...and yet it invalidates an existing answer, which is typically frowned on. In this case, I voted to reopen because I think the existing answer is not based on the true intent. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble - complicated by the fact that the word alien has two common uses, one involves nationality, the other refers to life that did not originate on Earth. I agree that likely the OP was referring to the latter in the original post, whereas the edit changes the question to one of nationality. Regarding the latter meaning of the word, I guess it becomes a matter of semantics, but a child born to humans in space (for example on Mars) would be considered of human origin, not alien. Wikipedia defines it as ".... alien life is life which does not originate from Earth." $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ Related on Politics : politics.stackexchange.com/q/34988/12027 $\endgroup$
    – Machavity
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 20:07

2 Answers 2


If a baby were born on the ISS, it would (probably) generally be treated the same way that it is handled here on Earth if babies are born on foreign soil. This means, it will be determined primarily on the citizenship of the parents.

Specifically, there are two primary legal contexts here: "jus soli" (right of the soil) and "jus sanguinis" (right of blood). Jus soli is the reason people born on USA-territory are automatically US-citizens, however jus sanguinis is more common worldwide, where the citizenship of the child is determined by those of the parent, regardless of birth-location.

For example, if a child that was the result of two German citizens was born on the ISS, it would be a German citizen as Germany generally uses a jus sanguinis system for their citizenship.

With US citizens it's a bit more complicated and fuzzy, but generally a child born to two US citizens will also automatically be a US citizen, regardless of where the birth takes place, provided that at least one of the parents has had a residency in the USA in the past.

Addendum: The ISS is a bit special because it is not "truly" international, but rather, each country maintains legal jurisdiction and authority over their sections. In the US sections, US law applies, in the Russian section, Russian law applies, etc. Despite this, the individual sections are explicitly not counted as "sovereign territory" which is the requirement for jus soli [source].

  • $\begingroup$ The question thus made more interesting by specifying ISS - International Space Station, which opens up a large number of possible situations depending on who the parents are and what their nationality is. Although while it's a likely future situation on Mars, it's unlikely to occur on ISS as it would have to be a rare type of cryptic pregnancy where realization of pregnancy doesn't occur until birth. Online sites like WebMD claim this happens about 1 in 2500 births, which seems absurdly high, I'm guessing this statistic includes people in 3rd world countries with essentially zero medical care $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 16:39


The baby might have been born in space, but its parents, i.e. the ISS astronauts, were Homo Sapiens who originally came from Earth.

So, your "baby" is about as "alien" as a panda i.e. your baby is not an "alien" even if you decided to paint him up green and attach antennas to his head.

Unless your setting in thousands of years in the future where "space-humans" and "Earth-humans" have diverged into two different species, chances are, your "baby" is about as alien as a rock.

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    $\begingroup$ Sometimes I feel like an alien simply by posting a question in a new Stack Exchange site, and in the real world I am required to carry an Alien Resident Certificate with me at all times. And yet, to the best of my recollection at least, my parents at least presented as human. Go figure :-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ Your answer focuses on only one of the meanings of "alien", i.e. nonhuman. The intent of the question is not clear, but I suspect that is not what is meant. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble - true that it was not specified, but my guess is that if a first time poster uses the term alien in a question about space with no other clarification, they are more likely talking about ET. Probably a lot of people on here, including myself, read the question and dismissed that interpretation as being more nonsensical and started thinking about the more relevant question about nationality. But it's probably not unrealistic for someone to assume in an answer that the original intent of the question was about extraterrestrial not extraterritorial. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ @StevePemberton the problem with that interpretation is that thinking humans on the ISS would give birth to a non human is just dumb. I give the OP more credit than that. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble - I don't normally make that type of assumption without knowing more background, I think you are being generous. Which is good and a standard that I should try and live up to more often. Going only by a somewhat vague question "if a baby was born on the iss, would it technically be an alien?" I would normally lean towards interpreting by what a random person on the Internet would mean by that. But on further reflection the 2nd and 3rd questions that they asked (in the original question) were reasonable questions, so maybe they were referring to nationality in the 1st question. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 21:36

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