Naturalization Act of 1798
The Naturalization Act, passed by the United States Congress on June 18, 1798 (1 Stat. 566), increased the period necessary for immigrants to become naturalized citizens in the United States from 5 to 14 years.
Although the law was passed under the guise of protecting national security, most historians conclude it was really intended to decrease the number of voters who disagreed with the Federalist political party. At the time, most immigrants (namely Irish and French) supported Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans, the political rivals of the Federalists. This act was repealed in 1802 by the Naturalization Law of 1802.
A number of changes were made to the previous naturalization law:
|Act||Naturalization Act of 1790||Naturalization Act of 1795||Naturalization Act of 1798|
|Notice time||no notice required||3 years||5 years|
|Residence period||2 years||5 years||14 years|
The "notice time" refers to the period that immigrants had to wait after declaring their intent to become a citizen. The "residence period" refers to the period they had to live in the United States before they could become a citizen. The Naturalization Act of 1798 is considered one of the Alien and Sedition Acts, passed contemporaneously in 1798. Like the Naturalization Acts of 1790 and 1795, the 1798 act also restricted citizenship to "free white persons".
Also, the act distinguished between native, citizen, denizen, or subject of any nation or state. The act is the first to maintain records of immigration and residence, and provided certificates of residence for white immigrant aliens, for the purpose of establishing the date of arrival for subsequent qualification for naturalization.
- Statutes at Large, 5th Congress, 2nd Session: Naturalization Act