What Qualifications Must a Person Meet to Be a Representative?

By Chelsea Levinson - Updated February 27, 2018
US National Capitol

Congress, the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government, is made up of two parts: the Senate and the House of Representatives. Members of Congress are responsible for introducing and voting on bills and resolutions, serving on committees and writing amendments, among other duties. If you are thinking of running for Congress, there are a few legal stipulations to consider first. The Senate and House each have their own age, citizenship and residency requirements. The good news is that the founders insisted that these Constitutional requirements be minimal; they wanted a government for the people, which meant removing unnecessary restrictions from running for public office.

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To qualify for Congress, you must meet the specific age, citizenship and residency requirements stipulated by the U.S. Constitution. The House and Senate each have their own qualifications.

Requirements for U.S. Senate

There are 100 U.S. senators, two representing each state regardless of population size. Senators are meant to represent the needs of an entire state, while House representatives focus on the needs of their individual districts. As of 2017, Senators earn $174,000 per year and serve six-year terms. Elections for the Senate are staggered; every two years, approximately one-third of the Senate is up for re-election.

The U.S. Constitution requires that to qualify for the U.S. Senate, you must:

  • Be 30 years of age
  • Have a valid U.S. citizenship for a minimum of nine years
  • Live in the state you plan to represent

Further, if elected, you are required to take an oath to support the Constitution prior to assuming your official duties as a Senator.

Requirements for U.S. House of Representatives

There are 436 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, each representing the people of a specific district. Unlike the Senate, House representatives are allocated to each state based on population numbers. Because of this proportional distribution, more populous states like California and New York have a far greater number of representatives than less populous states, likeWyoming and Alaska. As of 2017, Representatives earn $174,000 per year and serve two-year terms, at which point they are up for re-election.

According to the U.S. Constitution, to qualify for the U.S. House of Representatives, you must:

  • Be 25 years of age
  • Have valid U.S. citizenship for a minimum of seven years
  • Live in the state you plan to represent, but not necessarily in the district you represent

Similar to those elected to the Senate, representatives are required to take an oath to support the Constitution prior to taking office.

Requirements for State Legislatures

State Legislatures each have constitutional requirements for candidates running for office. Age of candidacy laws tend to be less strict for states than they are for the federal government. In many states, you can run for a seat in the legislature at 18 or 21 years of age. Residency requirements vary, depending on the state and on which office you’re running for. Check with your state laws to learn the requirements where you live.

About the Author

Chelsea Levinson earned her J.D. from Cardozo. As a former policy researcher, she has a passion for communicating legal issues to the public. She has created legal and policy content for Vox, Levo, Run For Something and more.

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