Important dates regarding naturalization in the United States

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1790 – Citizenship required a two year residency in the U.S. and one year
in the state, to be of good character, and to be performed in a court of
1795 – Additional requirements were added of a 3-year residency to file a
declaration of intention,a 5-year residency requirement (with 1-year in the
state of residence) to file final papers,and required renunciation of
titles of nobility and foreign allegiance. This act provided derivative
citizenship for wives and minor children.
1798 – Additional requirements stated that a copy of the return was to be
sent to the Secretary of State, and the residency was increased to fourteen
years. This was repealed in 1802.
1804 – Widows and children of an alien who died before filing his final
papers were granted citizenship.
1824 – The residency time between filing a declaration and final papers was
shortened to two years.
1855 – An alien female who married a U.S. citizen was automatically
naturalized. This was repealed in 1922.
1862 – Aliens over 21 who performed military service in the Army could
become citizens after one year's residency.
1868 – African Americans became citizens by passage of the Fourteenth
1872 – Alien seamen serving three years on a U.S. merchant vessel could be
naturalized without fulfilling a residency requirement.
1882 – Chinese were excluded from becoming citizens. This was repealed in
1891 – The Office of Immigration was established. Polygamists, and those
convicted of certain crimes or who carried certain diseases were excluded
from citizenship.
1894 – Aliens serving in the Navy or Marine Corps could be naturalized
under the same conditions of the 1862 law.
1906 – The Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization was established. Alien
registration was required. Residency requirements were changed to two
years to file intent, and five years for final papers. Derivative
citizenship was
still practiced.
1907 – A female U.S. citizen who married an alien lost her U.S. citizenship
and took on the nationality of her husband. This was repealed in 1922, but
citizenship was not restored until 1936.
1918 – Aliens serving in U.S. Forces during World War I could be
naturalized without any residency requirement.
1921 – The first Immigration Act to establish quotas of immigrants based on
national origin was enacted.
1922 – Women 21-years of age and over were entitled to citizenship.
Derivative citizenship was discontinued. The residency requirement to file
a declaration of intention was waived.
1924 – The Citizen Act of June 2, 1924 provided that "all non-citizen
Indians born with the territorial limits of the United States be, and they
are hereby declared to be, citizens of the United States." This included
Indians living on tribal reservations.
1940 – The Alien Immigration Act required registration and fingerprinting
at a local post office within 30 days of arrival.
1952 – The Immigration Act Amendment abandoned the national origins system
of setting quotas on ethnic groups.

Naturalization is voluntary. According to Census Bureau – of the foreign
born persons listed on the 1890 through 1930 censuses, 25% had not become
naturalized or filed their "first papers.

With thanks to Shirley Hornbeck

Shirley Hornbeck –
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