Naturalization Act of 1798
|Other short titles||Naturalization Act|
|Long title||An act supplementary to and to amend the act, intituled "An act to establish an uniform rule of naturalization, and to repeal the act heretofore passed on that subject|
|Enacted by||the 5th United States Congress|
|Effective||June 18, 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 citizens, and thus voters, who disagreed with the Federalist Party. At the time, most immigrants supported Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans, the political rivals of the Federalists. It had only limited effect, however, as many immigrants rushed to become naturalized before it went into effect, and states could at the time make their own more lenient naturalization laws.
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, together with three other laws passed contemporaneously in 1798 (the Alien Friends Act, Alien Enemies Act, and Sedition Act). 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 citizenship.