Summary of the United States Naturalization Laws (1907)

How to Become an American Citizen (1907)

The conditions and the manner in which an alien may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States are prescribed by Sections 2165-74 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, as amended by Chapter 3592 of the Acts of the First Session of the 59th Congress.


The alien must declare upon oath before a circuit or district court of the United States or a district or supreme court of the Territories, of a court of record of any of the States having common law jurisdiction and a seal and clerk, of which he is a resident, two years at least prior to his admission, that it is, bona fide, his intention to become a citizen of the United States, and to renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince or State, and particularly to the one of which he may be at the time a citizen or subject.


At the time of his application for admission, which must be not less than two years nor more than seven years after such a declaration of intention, he shall make and file a petition in writing, signed by himself (and duly verified by the affidavits of two creditable witnesses who are citizens of the United States, and who shall state that they have personally known him to be a resident of the United States at least five years continuously, and of the State or district at least one year previously), in one of the courts above specified, that it is his intention to become a citizen and reside permanently in the United States, that he is not a disbeliever in organized government or a believer in polygamy, and that he absolutely and forever renounces all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign country of which he may at the time of filing his petition be a citizen or subject.


He shall, before his final admission to citizenship, declare on oath in open court that he will support the Constitution of the United States, and that he absolutely and entirely renounces all foreign allegiance. If it shall appear to the satisfaction of the court that immediately preceding the date of his application he has resided continuously within the United States five years at least, and within the State or Territory where such court is held one year at least, and that during that time he has behaved as a man of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same, he may be admitted to citizenship.

If the applicant has borne any hereditary title or order of nobility he must make an express renunciation of the same. No person who believes in or is affiliated with any organization teaching opposition to organized government or who advocates or teaches the duty of unlawfully assaulting or killing any officer of any organized government because of his official character, shall be naturalized. No alien shall be naturalized who cannot speak the English language.

An alien soldier of the United States Army of good character may be admitted to citizenship on one year's previous residence. Any alien in the United States navy or marine corps, who has served five consecutive years in the United States navy or one enlistment in the United States marine corps, and honorably discharged, shall be admitted to citizenship upon his petition, without any previous declaration of his intention to become a citizen.

The United States naturalization laws provide:

"That no person who disbelieves in or who is opposed to organized government, or who is a member of or affiliated with any organization entertaining and teaching such disbelief in or opposition to organized government, or who advocates or teaches the duty, necessity, or propriety of the unlawful assaulting or killing of any officer or officers, either of specific individuals or of officers generally, of the government of the United States, or of any other organized government, because of his or their official character, or who is a polygamist, shall be naturalized or be made a citizen of the United States.

"That no alien shall hereafter be naturalized or admitted as a citizen of the United States who can not speak the English language: Provided, That this requirement shall not apply to aliens who are physically unable to comply therewith, if they are otherwise qualified to become citizens of the United States: And provided further, That the requirements of this section shall not apply to any alien who has prior to the passage of this Act declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States in conformity with the law in force at the date of making such declaration: Provided further, That the requirements of section eight shall not apply to aliens who shall hereafter declare their intention to become citizens and who shall make homestead entries upon the public lands of the United States and comply in all respects with the laws providing for homestead entries on such lands."

The law further provides:

"That it shall be the duty of the United States district attorneys for the respective districts, upon affidavit showing good cause therefor, to institute proceedings in any court having jurisdiction to naturalize aliens in the judicial district in which the naturalized citizen may reside at the time of bringing the suit, for the purpose of setting aside and canceling the certificate of citizenship on the ground of fraud or on the ground that such certificate of citizenship was illegally procured.

In any such proceedings the party holding the certificate of citizenship alleged to have been fraudulently or illegally procured shall have sixty days personal notice in which to make answer to the petition of the United States; and if the holder of such certificate be absent from the United States or from the district in which he last had his residence, such notice shall be given by publication in the manner provided for the service of summons by publication or upon absentees by the laws of the State or the place where such suit is brought.

"If any alien who shall have secured a certificate of citizenship under the provisions of this Act shall, within five years after the issuance of such certificate, return to the country of his nativity, or go to any other foreign country, and take permanent residence therein, it shall be considered prima facie evidence of a lack of intention on the part of such alien to become a permanent citizen of the United States at the time of filing his application for citizenship, and, in the absence of countervailing evidence, it shall be sufficient in the proper proceeding to authorize the cancellation of his certificate of citizenship as fraudulent, and the diplomatic and consular officers of the United States in foreign countries shall from time to time, through the Department of State, furnish the Department of Justice with the names of those within their respective jurisdictions who have such certificates of citizenship and who have taken permanent residence in the country of their nativity, or in any other foreign country, and such statements, duly certified, shall be admissible in evidence in all courts in proceedings to cancel certificates of citizenship.

"Whenever any certificate of citizenship shall be set aside or canceled, as herein provided, the court in which such judgment or decree is rendered shall make an order canceling such certificate of citizenship and shall send a certified copy of such order to the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization; and in case such certificate was not originally issued by the court making such order it shall direct the clerk of the court to transmit a copy of such order and judgment to the court out of which such certificate of citizenship shall have been originally issued.

And it shall thereupon be the duty of the clerk of the court receiving such certified copy of the order and judgment of the court to enter the same of record and to cancel such original certificate of citizenship upon the records and to notify the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization of such cancellation.

"The provisions of this section shall apply not only to certificates of citizenship issued under the provisions of this Act, but to all certificates of citizenship which may have been issued heretofore by any court exercising jurisdiction in naturalization proceedings under prior laws."


An alien minor may take out his first papers on attaining the age of eighteen years, but he can only become a citizen after having his first papers at least two years, and having resided within the United States five years, and after having attained age of twenty-one years.

The children of persons who have been duly naturalized, being under the age of twenty-one years at the time of the naturalization of their parents, shall, if dwelling in the United States, be considered as citizens thereof.


The children of persons who now are or have been citizens of the United States are, though born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, considered as citizens thereof.


The naturalization of Chinamen is prohibited.


Section 2,000 of the Revised Statutes of the United States declares that "all naturalized citizens of the United States while in foreign countries are entitled to and shall receive from this Government the same protection of persons and property which is accorded to native-born citizens. But when a naturalized citizen shall have resided for two years in the foreign State from which he came, it shall be presumed that he has ceased to be an American citizen, and his place of general abode shall be deemed his place of residence during the said years. It is provided that such a presumption may be overcome on the presentation of satisfactory evidence before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States."


The right to vote comes from the State, and is a State gift. Naturalization is a Federal right and is a gift of the Union, not of any one State. In nearly one-half of the Union aliens (who have declared intentions) vote and have the right to vote equally with naturalized or native-born citizens. In the other half only actual citizens may vote.

The Federal naturalization laws apply to the whole Union alike, and provide that no alien may be naturalized until after five years' residence. Even after five years' residence and due naturalization he is not entitled to vote unless the laws of the State confer the privilege upon him, and he may vote in several States six months after landing, if he has declared his intention, under United States law, to become a citizen.


The inhabitants of Hawaii were declared to be citizens of the United States under the act of 1900 creating Hawaii a Territory. Under the United States Supreme Court decision in the insular cases, in May, 1901, the inhabitants of the Philippines and Porto Rico are entitled to full protection under the Constitution, but not to the privileges of United States citizenship until Congress so decrees, by admitting the countries as States or organizing them as Territories.

NOTE.-Final Court fees usually range from $1.25 to $2.50.

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