Naturalization Act of 1790

Naturalization Act of 1790

The original United States Naturalization Law of March 26, 1790 (1 Stat. 103) provided the first rules to be followed by the United States in the granting of national citizenship. This law limited naturalization to immigrants who were "free white persons" of "good moral character". It thus left out indentured servants, slaves, free blacks, and later Asians. While women were included in the act, the right of citizenship did "not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States...." Citizenship was inherited exclusively through the father. This was the only statute that ever purported to grant the status of natural born citizen.[1][2]



In order to address one's "good moral character," the law required two years of residence in the United States and one year in the state of residence, prior to applying for citizenship. When those requirements were met, an immigrant could file a Petition for Naturalization with "any common law court of record" having jurisdiction over his residence asking to be naturalized. Once convinced of the applicant’s good moral character, the court would administer an oath of allegiance to support the Constitution of the United States. The clerk of court was to make a record of these proceedings, and "thereupon such person shall be considered as a citizen of the United States."

The Act also establishes the United States citizenship of children of citizens, born abroad, without the need for naturalization, "the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond Sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born Citizens".


The fourteenth amendment in 1868 granted citizenship to people born within the United States (excluding non-taxed Indians who were granted citizenship in the 1920s) regardless of their parents' race, citizenship, or place of birth. The 1898 Supreme Court court decision in United States v. Wong Kim Ark grants citizenship to a U.S. American born child of Chinese parents, extending citizenship to Asians born in the U.S.

The Act of 1790 was superseded by the Naturalization Act of 1795, which extended the residence requirement to five years. The Naturalization Act of 1870 extended citizenship to people of African descent who were born in the United States. The 1952 naturalization act prohibits racial and gender discrimination in naturalization.[3]


  1. ^ Hymowitz; Weissman (1975). A History of Women in America. Bantam. 
  2. ^ Schultz, Jeffrey D. (2002). Encyclopedia of Minorities in American Politics: African Americans and Asian Americans. p. 284. Retrieved 2010-03-25. 
  3. ^ Daniels, Roger. Coming to America, A History in Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life. 

External links

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