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The President Checklist: What It Requires to Run the Country

Presidential Seal
To become United States President, you need to be a natural born US citizen.

Anyone who has fulfilled certain requirements can run for office to be the United States President.

The 4 Requirements Are:

  1. To be a natural-born US citizen.
  2. To be a minimum age of 35 years old.
  3. To have been a resident of the United States for 14 years.
  4. To have not served for 2 terms previously as president.

So although we may usually end up with a real choice between a Democratic Party Nominee and a Republican Party Nominee, the original field is broad for a presidential election.

Academic Qualifications To Become President

There are zero academic qualifications to become the United States President. You may have a Law degree from Harvard or not have finished school. Everyone has an equal right to run for president regardless of their qualifications.

Requirements To Become United States President

While you might expect a massive list of requirements to be president so that we get the best possible candidates, that isn’t the case.

Stage for political rally
There are surprisingly few stipulations to run for United States President.

A lack of amendments to the United States Constitution means that the only qualifications relate to residency, a minimum age, and previous terms in office.

Additionally, you must be a United States citizen. From there, pretty much anyone can put themselves forward.

There is nothing about upper age limits, health, or criminal convictions. You have to meet the minimum requirements, get on the ballot, and then you can hope for the nomination.

2020 Presidential Election

2020 was the perfect year for highlighting the lack of restrictions and the potential need for further amendments.

Biden supporter
The 2020 presidential election led some to argue that there should be more restrictions on who can bid for the White House.

The final candidates for the Republicans and Democrats were reality TV star Donald Trump and 78-year-old Joe Biden.

Biden has previous political experience. Therefore, the race for the presidency felt like a logical career move.

After one term in the White House, President Trump had the experience, but nothing before that.

Meanwhile, Kanye West put himself in the running, showing that anyone that wants to run can at least try. The reason for this comes down to the wording of the United States Constitution.

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
Article II, Section 1, Clause 5

Kanye West holding his CD
Kanye West is an excellent example of the lack of qualifications or requirements needed to be President of the United States.

How To Run for President

Article 2, addresses the constitutional requirements for running for president and vice president.

President Biden
Joe Biden was 78 years old when he was sworn in as president. He was the oldest person to enter the presidency.

It applied to the role at the time of the formation of the USA and remains in place today. The article states the following three clauses:

  1. First, the president has to be a natural-born US citizen.
  2. The president has to have a minimum age of at least 35 years old
  3. The president must have been a United States resident for 14 years.

These three key points highlight potential issues with the process. For example, the third requirement caused a furor about Barack Obama‘s birth certificate during his race for the White House.

Fun Fact: ex-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson could run for president if he moved to the US, reclaimed his dual citizenship, and waited 14 years.

A natural-born US citizen

Furthermore, there are some interesting questions about the term “natural-born citizen.”

United States Passport
Only natural-born citizens can run for president.

United States territories don’t have the same rights as states but allow US citizenship for children born there.

For example, those born in Puerto Rico after 1940 are natural-born citizens and eligible to run for president.

However, military bases in foreign countries aren’t considered US soil, so children born there aren’t natural-born citizens. Instead, they gain citizenship from their parents. Subsequently, they cannot run for president because their birthplace is not considered US soil.

Other Important Criteria Aren’t Taken Into Consideration

There are factors that the American public would consider highly important when choosing a candidate, yet they aren’t mentioned in the current regulations and guidelines.

This includes:

  • An upper age limit for candidates.
  • The health of the candidate.
  • The possession of a criminal record.
handcuffs
A criminal record does not stop a citizen from running for president.

Age of Presidential Candidate

There is no upper age limit for the president. Age has garnered criticism because of the negative implications of swearing in a senior citizen.

President Joe Biden was 78, and there are questions about why the Democrats couldn’t have found a younger, fitter, more relatable candidate.

The 25th Amendment and the Presidential Succession Act say that if Joe Biden is unfit to be president, the vice president will step up to be the acting president.

How old do you have to be to run for president?

There is no upper age to run for president so that you could be the oldest person on earth.

There is a minimum age to run for president, which is 35.

Medical Health Issues

A related concern is that presidential candidates don’t have to publicize their medical history or information about current health issues.

Doctor
Presidential candidates are not required to reveal their medical history.

While there is an argument for allowing candidates their privacy, others argue that it helps know candidates are fit for office.

That doubt increases when your candidates are 74 and 78. A medical exam requirement could put voters’ minds at ease and lead to discrimination against specific disabilities and mental health conditions.

Example of Presidents with Health Conditions when they took Office

  1. Franklin D. Roosevelt: Roosevelt had a number of health issues, including paralysis from polio, heart disease, and high blood pressure. During his four terms in office, he worked hard to conceal the extent of his disabilities from the public.

  2. John F. Kennedy: Kennedy suffered from a number of health problems, including Addison’s disease, colitis, and chronic back pain. He was also taking a variety of medications to manage these conditions. Despite this, he was able to maintain the image of a youthful and vigorous leader during his presidency.

  3. Woodrow Wilson: Wilson suffered a severe stroke while in office in 1919, which left him partially paralyzed and unable to perform many of his duties. This was not disclosed to the public at the time, and his wife Edith took on many of his responsibilities in secret.

  4. Grover Cleveland: Cleveland was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw in 1893, but he was able to conceal the extent of his illness from the public until after he had already been elected to a second term.

  5. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in 1955 while in office. The extent of his illness was not fully disclosed at the time, and he continued to serve as President until the end of his term.

A US President With a Criminal Record

Nothing prevents you from assuming the role if you have a criminal record. This surprises some voters who expect their candidates to respect the law and be model citizens.

While some voters could overlook some minor state-level crimes that are inconsequential, more significant federal crimes may be looked at more harshly by voters during the election.

There has never been a US President who has a criminal record before taking office.

The 22nd Amendment on the Maximum Number of Terms in Office

Initially, there was no limit to the number of terms that a president could stand for. However, as George Washington stood twice, there was an unwritten agreement that any president would stand down after two terms.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to the White House on four occasions.

This changed with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was elected to office in the executive branch on four occasions. The 22nd Amendment discusses the number of terms a president can serve.

The 22nd Amendment came into effect via ratification on 27 February 1951. It states that a candidate may only be elected to the office of president for a total of two terms or eight years.

These terms don’t have to be consecutive, but you can’t run for a third. The Amendment came about after the four-term presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

President Trump could return.

It is unclear if Donald Trump will attempt to run again in 2024 or head back into other ventures. If he wanted to, the 22nd Amendment would allow him the right to put his name forward and try again.

On the other hand, Barack Obama won two terms back-to-back, so he is ineligible to run again no matter how many votes he receives.

Qualified Candidates Face a Simple Process To Run for US President

If you meet all of the criteria, running for president is surprisingly streamlined. There is a 4-step process to run when you meet the requirements.

  1. Fill out a statement of candidacy form – something not always necessary unless you’ve received more than $5,000 to fund your bid.
  2. Get on the ballot for your chosen party or as an independent.
  3. You can participate in political debates to get the vote in the primaries. You would usually also run the ticket with a vice president.
  4. If you win the nomination, you can continue on the election trail and wait for the final vote from the Electoral College.

Minimal Requirements and Qualifications

In short, the presidential requirements and qualifications are short, sweet, and relatively unchanged from the days of the constitution.

So if you are a natural-born citizen with 14 years of residency, are over 35, haven’t served two terms before, and are willing to go through the process, you have a chance (however slight) to get elected.

RequirementDescription
AgeMust be at least 35 years old
CitizenshipMust be a natural-born citizen of the United States
ResidencyMust have been a resident of the United States for at least 14 years prior to running for office
Political ExperienceNo formal political experience is required, but many presidents have held political offices before
EducationNo specific education requirements, but many presidents have advanced degrees
Campaign Finance LawsMust comply with campaign finance laws and disclose all campaign contributions
Election ProcessMust win a majority of the votes in the Electoral College to be elected president
Term LimitsCan only serve two terms as president, as mandated by the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution
Oath of OfficeMust take the oath of office to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States”

Can anybody become president?

Although there are minimal requirements to become president, it is still tough to become president as many stumbling blocks are in the way.

Here are some things that will make your bid become more successful:

Be affiliated with a major political party

Two major political parties have generally dominated United States elections.

Only two candidates have ever won a presidential election without being affiliated with a political party. They are George Washington and John Adams.

This likely happened as they were the first two presidents and stood before the two-party system was as strong.

In modern times, one of the unwritten requirements is that you belong to one of the two major political parties to win the election to become president.

Have access to campaign financing.

Running as a presidential candidate requires access to a large amount of money to run a campaign. 

This money is spent on advertising, staff salaries, travel, and other campaign-related expenses. If you don’t have it, you are unlikely to succeed.

This is how much has been spent by presidential candidates on campaigns in the last few elections:

2020 Presidential Elections

Biden vs Trump, united states presidential election 2020, american vote
Biden and Trump had to raise massive funds to finance their run for president in 2020.

Joe Biden spent approximately $1.1 billion.
Donald Trump spent approximately $1.5 billion.

2016 Presidential Elections

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
Hillary Clinton spent almost double the amount that Trump did on his campaign to become president of the United States.

Hillary Clinton spent approximately $1.2 billion.
Donald Trump spent approximately $600 million.

2012 Presidential Elections

Obama vs Romney
Obama and Romney spent similar amounts on their campaigns. However, Obama ended up winning the presidential election.

Barack Obama spent approximately $1 billion.
Mitt Romney spent approximately $800 million.

US Flag, money and democratic/republic cards
You don’t need a lot of money to run for president. However, you will likely need access to a lot of money to run your campaign.

Quiz about the Requirements and Qualifications To Become the US President

If you would like to download a PDF with our quiz, then please go to: 

Download the quiz PDF

Alternatively, you can take our online quiz here:

Constitution Quiz: Requirements and Qualifications To Become the US President

Anyone who wants to run for President must be under this age:
Can you run for the Presidency if you have a criminal record?
If a person was born on a military base in a foreign country, would that someone be considered a natural- born citizen who could run for President?
How many terms could you serve as the President?
The rule on how many terms you can serve as the President is listed through:
Is a person born in Puerto Rico eligible to run for the Presidency as a natural-born citizen?
If you were to fill out a statement of candidacy form to plan a run for President, how much money should you have received for your bid before filling out that form?
When you get on the Presidential ballot, you can do so as one of these:
How long do you have to have been a resident of the United States if you want to run for President
Does a person who wants to run for President have to provide details on one’s medical history or any ongoing health concerns?
What is the minimum age you must be to run for President?
The rules surrounding the requirements for running for the Presidency are in the Constitution under:

17 Responses

  1. Presidential candidate should have mental health checks also after entering the WH.
    Half way through their term they should be checked again. We deserve to know they’re healthy after all we elected them to protect us.

  2. You do realize the President is a citizen of the United States and is protected by HIPAA.
    Discloser would make that law moot

  3. Greetings Sarge. (USAF E-4 here.) While I agree with 100% of your post, HIPAA could be amended to exclude President/Vice President from protection. However, given the gross polarity between both parties, one side would support an amendment with the other rejecting it.
    Could it happen? Certainly.
    Will it happen? Not in our lifetime. Not unless the polarization ends.

  4. Those born on foreign located military bases have birth certificates of the base’s U.S. county of linkage, as if born in that county. They are specifically and intentionally noted as natural-born citizens.
    For instance, Taiwan located U. S. military naval base in 1961, births there are noted as certified for birth in a county near San Diego, Fort Pendleton , I think, therefore natural-born U.S. citizen

    1. Additionally, as you said, all births on overseas US military bases have full citizenship and can run for president (Ted Cruz was born on a US base in Canada).

  5. The world has become so complex and extensive knowledge of foreign affairs so important
    educational criteria needs to be added.

    1. Education by who CIA, State department full of opposing party? That would be the next corrupted class taugh. We all know universities lean over 90% to one party & would just be other legal class university gatekeeping tool. There’s one main document that needs to be known by all owners of the republic (not democracy) THE CONSTITUTION of which every president in my life has committed treason against. We need a plumber in the oval office that meets the constitutional standard & knows it.

  6. Unfortunately it isn’t feasible to codify into law all the reasonable qualifications to run for the office. It shouldn’t be necessary anyway, providing we had a well informed populace in which most of those persons qualified to vote actually voted!
    Typically for presidential elections about 100 million don’t bother to vote.

  7. Wasn’t there a Constitutional requirement that BOTH parents of a candidate be American citizens when their child was born? (excluding the period immediately following the Revolutionary War when we were all Europeans) The idea being to avoid “split loyalty”. My favorite political pundit claims he is ineligible to run for President because his mother was a British Subject. (he was born in New York City) Has something been removed from the definition of “natural born”?

  8. Competency to hold office based on “American History” and the ability to have some higher level of “common sense” especially in military matters and weapons capability in world affairs in general,
    are concerns in light of Russia, China and Ukraine (i.e. nuclear usage applications).

  9. Why start wars when there does not need to be and why have madness begin and peace end !
    The United States of America has welcomed all nations to come throughout the history of time to this country “ to have a better life .”
    The wall from former president Trump was intentionally built to keep Mexicans and Hispanics out from invading this country that has been a known as a melting pot of all languages and cultures.
    Someone tell me WHY this wall has cost us the United States of America over 21 billion dollars to keep them out when they are like many other nations that want to come and provide their families a better life
    WHEN us as a nation could have taken the roughly 21 billion dollars to help the Nation of Mexico in giving them clean water and better medical supplies and what they need to be able to provide for themselves and their families.
    We are here on this earth to help each other! Why are we fighting with other nations and being proud and arrogant and not sit down and come up with solutions to come to terms in working together!
    WHY are we in this country at most jobs being paid less than what just our mortgage
    Is and most Americans live pay check to pay check !
    The United States of America needs to know that this country is the people! Pride comes before the fall and yet this country has been so blinded by power that our country is falling !
    We don’t need to all like each other or necessarily agree with each other but respect each other!

  10. How can a person with a felony be president when the law states that you can not receive a clearance to review classified information.

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