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Territories of the United States: Map


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Territories of the United States are one type of political division of the United Statesmarker, administered by the U.S. government but not any part of a U.S. state. These territories were created to govern newly acquired land while the borders of the United States were still evolving. Territories can be classified by whether they are incorporated (part of the United States proper) and whether they have an organized government (through an Organic Act or constitution passed by the U.S. Congress). The organized incorporated territories of the United States existed from 1789 to 1959, through which 31 territories applied for and achieved statehood. The U.S. had no unincorporated territories (also called "overseas possessions" or "insular areasmarker") until 1856 but continues to control several of them today.

Incorporated and unincorporated territories

An incorporated territory of the United Statesmarker is a specific area under the jurisdiction of the United States, over which the United States Congress has determined that the United States Constitution is to be applied to the territory's local government and inhabitants in its entirety (e.g., citizenship, trial by jury), in the same manner as it applies to the local governments and residents of the U.S. states. Incorporated territories are considered an integral part of the United States, as opposed to being merely possessions.

In the contemporary sense, the term "unincorporated territory" refers primarily to insular areasmarker. There is currently only one incorporated territory, Palmyra Atollmarker, which is not an organized territory. Conversely, a territory can be organized without being an incorporated territory, a contemporary example being Puerto Rico.

See organized incorporated territories of the United States and unincorporated territories of the United States for timelines.

Classification of current U.S. territories

Incorporated organized territories

None since 1959.

Incorporated unorganized territories

[[Image:US insular areas.png|thumb|300px|Location of the insular areas:


  • Palmyra Atollmarker is privately owned by the Nature Conservancy and administered by the U.S.marker Department of the Interiormarker. It is an archipelago of about 50 small islands about 1.56 square miles (4 km²) in area that lies about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) south of Honolulumarker. The atoll was acquired by the United States in the 1898 annexation of the Republic of Hawaiimarker. When the Territory of Hawaii was incorporated on April 30, 1900, Palmyra Atoll was incorporated as part of that territory. However, when Hawaiimarker became a state in 1959, Palmyra Atoll was explicitly separated from the state, remaining an incorporated territory but receiving no new organized government.

There are in addition also "territories" that have the status of being incorporated but that are not organized:

  • U.S. coastal waters out to 12 nautical miles
  • U.S. flag vessels at sea.

Unincorporated organized territories

Unincorporated unorganized territories

Islands in South Pacific Islands in Americas

There is also a special kind of unincorporated unorganized territory:
  • Certain parcels in foreign countries held by lease, such as military bases, depending on the terms of a lease, treaty, or status of forces agreement with the host country.

Classification of former U.S. territories & administered areas

Former incorporated organized territories of the United States

See Organized incorporated territories of the United States for a complete list.

Former unincorporated territories of the United States (incomplete)

Former unincorporated territories of the United States under military government

  • Puerto Rico (April 11, 1899–May 1, 1900): civil government operations began
  • Philippinesmarker (April 11, 1899–July 4, 1901): civil government operations began
  • Guammarker (April 11, 1899–July 1, 1950): civil government operations began

Areas formerly administered by the United States (incomplete)

Other zones

See also


External links

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