Please explain what advantages or privileges a country has when it is listed as a U.S. territory, such as St. Thomas, or any of the Virgin Islands. Just exactly what does that mean?

C.J. Hall

Bristol Virginia

According to Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, a territory is subject to and belongs to the United States, but not necessarily within the national boundaries or any individual state. Such territory includes tracts of land or water not included within the limits of any state and not admitted as a state into the union.

The Constitution further states that Congress shall "make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory."

That said, I suppose you could say an advantage is being part of the U.S. without actually being connected to or contained in the continental U.S.

Native-born inhabitants of U.S. territories are not constitutionally entitled to U.S. citizenship but Congress has given them the right of citizenship, except for American Samoa where residents are U.S. nationals, not U.S. citizens.

Territory citizens can vote and run for office in the U.S. jurisdiction in which they live.

Residents in some territories, like Puerto Rico, can vote in primaries but not the general election. Also, territories are not represented in Congress.

The State Department uses the term insular area for U.S. territories. Residents of insular areas do not pay taxes to the U.S. government, but rather to the territorial governments in most cases.

For example, Guam has its own tax system based on U.S. tax laws and tax rates, while the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has an independent tax system modeled after the U.S. system, but with different laws and tax rates.

Traveling to and from U.S. territories is an advantage for U.S. citizens because they are not considered to have left the U.S. and do not need to present a passport. So from here, one could travel to American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Swains Island and the U.S. Virgin Islands without having to obtain a passport.

Here are some other territories under U.S. rule – Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Navassa Island, Palmyra Atoll, Petrel Islands, Serranilla Bank and Wake Island.

Several islands in the Pacific and Caribbean are "dependent territories" of the U.S.

The Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is administered by the U.S. under a perpetual lease, much as the Panama Canal Zone used to be.

MARK HICKS is assistant city editor at the Bristol Herald Courier and can be reached at (276) 645-2546 or by e-mail at mhicks@bristolnews.com. Questions can be mailed to Question Mark, Bristol Herald Courier, P.O. Box 609, Bristol, VA 24203.

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