Under the first American statute (1790) all unindentured white males who had lived in the United States for two years might become citizens. The period of residence was lengthened to five years in 1795 and, as a result of xenophobic sentiments then prevalent, to 14 years in 1798. In 1802, the term was reduced to five years, which remains the usual term. The McCarran-Walter Act (1952; amended, 1965) revised and recodified the entire body of immigration and naturalization regulations. By the terms of this act, declarations of intention two years before naturalization were eliminated, and naturalization could be granted 30 days after petitioning, following rigorous examination. The act introduced seditious behavior, discovery of fraud, and prolonged absences abroad as grounds for cancellation of naturalization, although the implementation of these provisions was limited by subsequent Supreme Court decisions. The act is administered by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Dept. of Homeland Security.
The petitioner for naturalization must meet several requirements, including the ability to read and speak English. He or she must also swear to support the Constitution, and must be adjudged of good moral character. The actual conferring of citizenship is in most cases the action of a federal court. Children under 18 become citizens automatically upon the naturalization of one or both parents. Minor children adopted abroad by American citizens now automatically become citizens as a result of the Child Citizenship Act (2000); previously the children did not become citizens unless they were naturalized.
The process of naturalization in some circumstances is shortened for members of the U.S. armed forces and for the spouses of American citizens, and there are certain exceptions made by means of private immigration and naturalization bills passed by Congress. In addition to individual acts of naturalization, whole populations may be naturalized. An example is the conferring of citizenship at various times in U.S. history on the populace of Texas, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
See also immigration.
See F. G. Franklin, The Legislative History of Naturalization in the United States (1906, repr. 1969).
In general, basic requirements for naturalization are that the applicant hold a legal status as a full-time resident for a minimum period of time and that the applicant promise to obey and uphold that country's laws, to which an oath or pledge of allegiance is sometimes added. Some countries also require that a naturalized national must renounce any other citizenship that he currently holds, forbidding dual citizenship, but whether this renunciation actually causes loss of the person's original citizenship will again depend on the laws of the countries involved.
Nationality is traditionally based either on jus soli ("right of the territory") or on jus sanguinis ("right of blood"), although it now usually mixes both. Whatever the case, the massive increase in population flux due to globalization and the sharp increase in the numbers of refugees following World War I has created an important class of non-citizens, sometimes called denizens. In some rare cases, procedures of mass naturalization were passed (Greece in 1922, Armenian refugees or, more recently, Argentine people escaping the economic crisis). As naturalization laws had been created to deal with the rare case of people separated from their nation state because they lived abroad (expatriates), Western democracies were not ready to naturalize the massive influx of stateless people which followed massive denationalizations and the expulsion of minorities in the first part of the 20th century — the two greatest such minorities after World War I were the Jews and the Armenians, but they also counted the (mostly aristocratic) Russians who had escaped the 1917 October Revolution and the war communism period, and then the Spanish refugees. As Hannah Arendt pointed out, internment camps became the "only nation" of such stateless people, since they were often considered "undesirable" and were stuck in an illegal situation (their country had expelled them or deprived them of their nationality, while they hadn't been naturalized, thus living in a judicial no man's land).
After World War II, the increase in international migrations created a new category of refugees, most of them economic refugees. For economic, political, humanitarian and pragmatic reasons, many states passed laws allowing a person to acquire their citizenship after birth (such as by marriage to a national or by having ancestors who are nationals of that country), in order to reduce the scope of this category. However, this system still maintains in some countries a large part of the immigrated population in an illegal status, albeit some massive regularizations (in Spain by José Luis Zapatero's government and in Italy by Berlusconi's government).
There had always been a distinction in English law between the subjects of the monarch and aliens: the monarch's subjects owed him (or her) allegiance, and included those born in his dominions (natural-born subjects) and those who later gave him their allegiance (naturalized subjects).
The modern requirements for naturalisation as a British citizen depend on whether one is married to a British citizen or not.
For those married to a British citizen the applicant must:
For those not married to a British citizen the requirements are:
All applicants for naturalisation must be of "good character". Naturalisation is at the discretion of the Home Secretary but is normally granted if the requirements are met.
Congress is given the power to prescribe a uniform rule of naturalization, which was administered by state courts. There was some confusion about which courts could naturalize; the final ruling was that it could be done by any "court of record having common-law jurisdiction and a clerk (prothonotary) and seal."
The Constitution also mentions 'natural born citizen.' The first naturalization Act (drafted by Thomas Jefferson) used the phrases 'natural born' and 'native born' interchangeably. To be 'naturalized' therefore means to become as if "natural born" -- i.e. a citizen.
There is an interesting loophole here in that the Constitution does not mandate race-neutral naturalization. Until 1952, the Naturalization Acts written by Congress still allowed only white persons to become naturalized as citizens (except for two years in the 1870s which the Supreme Court declared to be a mistake).
Naturalization is also mentioned in the Fourteenth Amendment. Before that Amendment, individual states set their own standards for citizenship. The Amendment states that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof shall be citizens of the United States and of the State in which they reside."
Note also that the Amendment is ambiguous on the issue of singular or plural United States. In the early days the phrase 'United States' was used as a singular or a plural according to the meaning. After the Civil War, it was generally always a singular. The Amendment does not say 'its jurisdiction' or 'their jurisdiction' but 'the jurisdiction thereof'.
The Naturalization Act of 1795 set the initial parameters on naturalization: 'free, White persons' who had been resident for five years or more. The Naturalization Act of 1798, part of the Alien and Sedition Acts, was passed by the Federalists and extended the residency requirement from five to fourteen years. It specifically targeted Irish and French immigrants who were involved in anti-Federalist politics. It was repealed in 1802.
An 1862 law allowed honorably discharged Army veterans of any war to petition for naturalization, without having filed a declaration of intent, after only one year of residence in the United States. An 1894 law extended the same privilege to honorably discharged 5-year veterans of the Navy or Marine Corps. Over 192,000 aliens were naturalized between May 9, 1918, and June 30, 1919, under an act of May 9, 1918. Laws enacted in 1919, 1926, 1940, and 1952 continued preferential treatment provisions for veterans.
Passage of the Fourteenth Amendment meant that, in theory, all persons born in the U.S. are citizens regardless of race. Citizenship by birth in the United States, however, was not initially granted to Asians until 1898, when the Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment did apply to Asians born in the United States in United States v. Wong Kim Ark.
The enabling legislation for the naturalization aspects of the Fourteenth Amendment was the 1875 Page Act, which allowed naturalization of 'aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent,' but is silent about other races.
The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act banned Chinese workers and specifically barred them from naturalization. The Immigration Act of 1917, (Barred Zone Act) extended those restrictions to almost all Asians.
The 1922 Cable Act specified that women marrying aliens ineligible for naturalization lose their US citizenship. At the time, all Asians were ineligible for naturalization. The Immigration Act of 1924 barred entry of all those ineligible for naturalization, which again meant non-Filipino Asians.
Following the Spanish American War in 1898, Philippine residents were classified as US nationals. But the 1934 Tydings-McDuffie Act, or Philippine Independence Act, reclassified Filipinos as aliens, and set a quota of 50 immigrants per year, and otherwise applying the Immigration Act of 1924 to them.
Asians were first permitted naturalization by the 1943 Magnuson Act, which repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act. India and the Philippines were allowed 100 annual immigrants under the 1946 Filipino Naturalization Act. The War Brides Act of 1945 permitted soldiers to bring back their foreign wives and established precedent in naturalization through marriage.
The 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act (better known as the McCarran-Walter Act), lifted racial restrictions, but kept the quotas in place. The Immigration Act of 1965 finally allowed Asians and all persons from all nations be given equal access to immigration and naturalization.
Illegal immigration became a major issue in the US at the end of the 20th century. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, while tightening border controls, also provided the opportunity of naturalization for illegal aliens who had been in the country for at least four years.
The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 streamlined the naturalization process for children adopted internationally. A child under age 18 who is adopted by at least one U.S. citizen parent, and is in the custody of the citizen parent(s), is now automatically naturalized once admitted to the United States as an immigrant.
The following list is a short summary of the duration of legal residence before a national of a foreign state, without any cultural, historical, or marriage ties or connections to the state in question, can request citizenship under that state's naturalization laws.
A few rare massive naturalizations procedures have been implemented by nation states. In 1891, Brazil granted naturalization to all aliens living in the country. In 1922, Greece massively naturalized all the Greek refugees coming back from Turkey. The second massive naturalization procedure was in favor of Armenian refugees coming from Turkey, who went to Syria, Lebanon or other former Ottoman countries. Canada instituted a mass naturalization by Act of Parliament with the enactment of the Canadian Citizenship Act 1946.
The most recent massive naturalization case resulted from the Argentine economic crisis in the beginning of the 21st century. Right of return laws in Spain and Italy allowed many of their diasporic descendants to obtain—in many cases to regain—naturalization in virtue of jus sanguinis, as in the Greek case. Hence, many Argentinians and Latin Americans acquired European nationality.
Since the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution grants citizenship only to those "born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof", and the original United States Constitution only grants Congress the power of naturalization, it could be argued that all acts of Congress that expand the right of citizenship are cases of massive naturalization. This includes the acts that extended U.S. citizenship to citizens of Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 which made all Native Americans citizens (most of them were previously excluded under the "jurisdiction" clause of the 14th Amendment).
Denaturalization is the reverse of naturalization, when a state deprives one of its citizens of his or her citizenship. From the point of view of the individual, denaturalization means "revocation" or "loss" of citizenship. Denaturalization can be based on various legal justifications. The most severe form is the "stripping of citizenship" when denaturalization takes place as a penalty for actions considered criminal by the state, often only indirectly related to nationality, for instance for having served in a foreign military. In countries that enforce single citizenship, voluntary naturalization in another country will lead to an automatic loss of the original citizenship; the language of the law often refers to such cases as "giving up one's citizenship" or (implicit) renunciation of citizenship. Unlike these two cases, which affect also native-born citizens, naturalized citizens can lose their citizenship by an annulment of naturalization, also known as "administrative denaturalization" where the original act of naturalization is found to be invalid, for instance due to an administrative error or if it had been based on fraud (including bribery). In the US, the Bancroft Treaties in the 19th century regulated legislation concerning denaturalization.
After annexation of the territories east of the Curzon line by the Soviet Union in 1945, Communist Poland denaturalized en masse all the inhabitants of those territories - including ethnic Poles, as well as its other citizens who had been deported into the Soviet Union, mainly to Kazakhstan. Those persons were forcibly naturalized as Soviet citizens. In contrast to Germany, which affords the ethnic German population in Russia and Kazakhstan full citizenship rights, Poland has only a very limited repatriation program and treats the repatriates as foreigners who need to be naturalized.
Yaser Esam Hamdi was a U.S. citizen captured in Afghanistan in 2001. The U.S. government claimed that he was fighting against U.S. and Afghan Northern Alliance forces with the Taliban. He was named by the Bush administration as an "illegal enemy combatant", and detained for almost three years without receiving any charges. On September 23, 2004, the United States Justice Department agreed to release Hamdi to Saudi Arabia on the condition that he gives up his U.S. citizenship, which was later revoked by the courts after his refusal to give it up.
The 1915 French denaturalization law applied only to naturalized citizens with "enemy origins" who had kept their original nationality. Later under Raymond Poincaré's government, another law was passed in 1927 which entitled the government to denaturalize any new citizen who committed acts contrary to the national interest.
In 1916, Portugal passed a law which automatically denaturalized all citizens born to a German father.
In 1922, Belgium enacted a law revoking the naturalization of persons accused of having committed "antinational acts" during the war; this was supplemented in 1934 by a new decree against people "in dereliction of their duties as Belgian citizens."
After 1926 in Italy, people who were deemed not to deserve the Italian citizenship or who were considered to represent a threat to the public order could be denaturalized.
Egypt in 1926 and Turkey in 1928 enacted laws authorizing denaturalization of any person threatening the public order. Austria passed a similar law in 1933 by which it could denaturalize any citizen who participated in a hostile action against the state. Russia also passed several similar decrees after 1921 .
In 1933, Nazi Germany passed a law authorizing it to denaturalize any person "living abroad" and began restricting the citizenship rights of naturalized citizens of Jewish origin, followed in 1935 by citizens by birth on the basis of the Nuremberg laws.
During Vichy France, 15,000 persons, mostly Jews, were denaturalized (between June 1940 and August 1944), following the setting up, in July 1940, of a Commission charged of revision of naturalizations since the 1927 reform of the nationality law .
In the United States, the proposed, but never ratified, Titles of Nobility amendment of 1810 would revoke the American citizenship of anyone who would "accept, claim, receive or retain, any title of nobility" or who would receive any gifts or honors from a foreign power.