Territories of the United States

Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative divisions overseen by the federal government of the United States. The various American territories differ from the U.S. states and Indian reservations as they are not sovereign entities.[note 2] In contrast, each state has a sovereignty separate from that of the federal government and each federally recognized Native American tribe possesses limited tribal sovereignty as a "dependent sovereign nation".[4] Territories are classified by incorporation and whether they have an "organized" government through an organic act passed by the Congress.[5] American territories are under American sovereignty and, consequently, may be treated as part of the United States proper in some ways and not others (i.e., territories belong to, but are not considered to be a part of, the United States).[6] Unincorporated territories in particular are not considered to be integral parts of the United States,[7] and the Constitution of the United States applies only partially in those territories.[8][9][5][10][11]

Territories of the United States
Flag of CommonwealthIncorporated/Unincorporated territoryInsular area
A world map with the states and territories of the United States highlighted in different colors.
  Incorporated, unorganized territory
  Unincorporated, organized territory
  Unincorporated, organized territory with Commonwealth status[note 1]
  Unincorporated, unorganized territory
LanguagesEnglish, Spanish, Carolinian, Chamorro, Samoan
Joe Biden
22,294.19 km2 (8,607.83 sq mi)
 2020 census
CurrencyUnited States dollar
Date formatmm/dd/yyyy (AD)

The United States currently administers three[8][12] territories in the Caribbean Sea and eleven in the Pacific Ocean.[note 3][note 4] Five territories (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 nine, only one is classified as an incorporated territory (Palmyra Atoll). Two additional territories (Bajo Nuevo Bank and Serranilla Bank) are claimed by the United States but administered by Colombia.[9][14][15] Historically, territories were created to administer newly acquired land, and most eventually attained statehood.[16][17] The most recent territories to become U.S. states were Alaska and Hawaii, both in 1959.[18] The Philippines — along with the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau, which were administered as a U.N. trust territory, but sometimes grouped with U.S. territories — later became independent nations.[note 5]

Politically and economically, the territories are underdeveloped. Residents of United States territories cannot vote in United States Presidential elections, and they have only non-voting representation in the United States Congress.[9] According to 2012 data, territorial telecommunications and other infrastructure are generally inferior to that of the continental United States and Hawaii.[19] Poverty rates are higher in the territories than in the states.[20][21]

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