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A judge swears in a new citizen. New York, 1910
Legal status of persons

Leave to Remain
Illegal immigration

Legal designations

Native-born citizen
Naturalized citizen
Migrant worker
Illegal immigrant
Political prisoner
Stateless person
Administrative detain

Social politics

Immigration law
Nationality law
Nativism (politics)
Immigration debate

Naturalization is the acquisition of citizenship or nationality by somebody who was not a citizen or national of that country when he or she was born.

In general, basic requirements for naturalization are that the applicant hold a legal status as a full-time resident for a minimum period of time and that the applicant promise to obey and uphold that country's laws, to which an oath or pledge of allegiance is sometimes added. Some countries also require that a naturalized national must renounce any other citizenship that they currently hold, forbidding dual citizenship, but whether this renunciation actually causes loss of the person's original citizenship will again depend on the laws of the countries involved.

Nationality is traditionally based either on jus soli ("right of the territory") or on jus sanguinis ("right of blood"), although it now usually mixes both. Whatever the case, the massive increase in population flux due to globalization and the sharp increase in the numbers of refugees following World War I created an important class of non-citizens, sometimes called denizens. In some rare cases, procedures of mass naturalization were passed (Greece in 1922, Armenian refugees or, more recently, Argentine people escaping the economic crisis). As naturalization laws were created to deal with the rare case of people separated from their nation state because they lived abroad (expatriates), western democracies were not ready to naturalize the massive influx of stateless people which followed massive denationalizations and the expulsion of minorities in the first part of the 20th century — the two greatest such minorities after World War I were the Jews, and the Armenians, but they also counted the (mostly aristocratic) Russians who had escaped the 1917 October Revolution and the war communism period, and then the Spanish refugees. As Hannah Arendt pointed out, internment camps became the "only nation" of such stateless people, since they were often considered "undesirable" and were stuck in an illegal situation (their country had expelled them or deprived them of their nationality, while they hadn't been naturalized, thus living in a judicial no man's land).

After World War II, the increase in international migrations created a new category of refugees, most of them economic refugees. For economic, political, humanitarian and pragmatic reasons, many states passed laws allowing a person to acquire their citizenship after birth (such as by marriage to a national – jus matrimonii – or by having ancestors who are nationals of that country), in order to reduce the scope of this category. However, in some countries this system still maintains a large part of the immigrated population in an illegal status, albeit some massive regularizations (in Spain by José Luis Zapatero's government and in Italy by Berlusconi's government).


Different naturalization techniques


In Finland

Finland became independent on December 6, 1917. The old constitution, dating back to Swedish rule, required all Finnish citizens to be of Evangelical Lutheran faith. Both Jews and Muslims started to apply for Finnish citizenship in 1918. Muslims, however, were accepted only after the Constitution of Finland was modified and general freedom of religion was declared by 1919.

In the United Kingdom

There had always been a distinction in English law between the subjects of the monarch and aliens: the monarch's subjects owed the monarch allegiance, and included those born in his or her dominions (natural-born subjects) and those who later gave him or her their allegiance (naturalized subjects).

The modern requirements for naturalization as a British citizen depend on whether one is married to a British citizen or not.

For those married to a British citizen the applicant must:

  • hold indefinite leave to remain in the UK (or an equivalent such as Right of Abode or Irish citizenship)
  • have lived legally in the UK for three years
  • been outside of the UK no more than 90 days during the one-year period prior to filing the application.
  • show sufficient knowledge of life in the UK, either by passing the Life in the United Kingdom test or by attending combined English language and citizenship classes. Proof of this must be supplied with one's application for naturalization. Those aged 65 or over may be able to claim exemption.
  • meet specified English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic language competence standards. Those who pass the Life in the UK test are deemed to meet English language requirements.

For those not married to a British citizen the requirements are:

  • at least five years legal residence in the UK
  • been outside of the UK no more than 90 days during the one-year period prior to filing the application.
  • indefinite leave to remain or equivalent must have been held for 12 months
  • the applicant must intend to continue to live in the UK or work overseas for the UK government or a British corporation or association.
  • the same language and knowledge of life in the UK standards apply as for those married to British citizens

All applicants for naturalization must be of "good character". Naturalization is at the discretion of the Home Secretary but is normally granted if the requirements are met.

In the United States

In the United States of America, naturalization is mentioned in the Constitution.

A Naturalization Certificate from 1911

Congress is given the power to prescribe a uniform rule of naturalization, which was administered by state courts. There was some confusion about which courts could naturalize; the final ruling was that it could be done by any "court of record having common-law jurisdiction and a clerk (prothonotary) and seal."

The Constitution also mentions 'natural born citizen.' The first naturalization Act (drafted by Thomas Jefferson) used the phrases 'natural born' and 'native born' interchangeably. To be 'naturalized' therefore means to become as if "natural born" -- i.e., a citizen.

The Constitution does not mandate race-neutral naturalization. Until 1952, the Naturalization Acts written by Congress still allowed only white persons to become naturalized as citizens (except for two years in the 1870s which the Supreme Court declared to be a mistake).

Naturalization is also mentioned in the Fourteenth Amendment. Before that Amendment, individual states set their own standards for citizenship. The Amendment states that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof shall be citizens of the United States and of the State in which they reside."

Note also that the Amendment is ambiguous on the issue of singular or plural United States. In the early days the phrase 'United States' was used as a singular or a plural according to the meaning. After the Civil War, it was generally always a singular. The Amendment does not say 'its jurisdiction' or 'their jurisdiction' but 'the jurisdiction thereof'.

The Naturalization Act of 1795 set the initial parameters on naturalization: 'free, White persons' who had been resident for five years or more. The Naturalization Act of 1798, part of the Alien and Sedition Acts, was passed by the Federalists and extended the residency requirement from five to fourteen years. It specifically targeted Irish and French immigrants who were involved in Democratic-Republican Party politics. It was repealed in 1802.

An 1862 law allowed honorably discharged Army veterans of any war to petition for naturalization, without having filed a declaration of intent, after only one year of residence in the United States. An 1894 law extended the same privilege to honorably discharged 5-year veterans of the Navy or Marine Corps. Over 192,000 aliens were naturalized between May 9, 1918, and June 30, 1919, under an act of May 9, 1918. Laws enacted in 1919, 1926, 1940, and 1952 continued preferential treatment provisions for veterans.[1]

Passage of the Fourteenth Amendment meant that, in theory, all persons born in the U.S. are citizens regardless of race. Citizenship by birth in the United States, however, was not initially granted to Asians until 1898, when the Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment did apply to Asians born in the United States in United States v. Wong Kim Ark.

The enabling legislation for the naturalization aspects of the Fourteenth Amendment was the Naturalization Act of 1870, which allowed naturalization of 'aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent,' but is silent about other races.

The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act banned Chinese workers and specifically barred them from naturalization. The Immigration Act of 1917, (Barred Zone Act) extended those restrictions to almost all Asians.

The 1922 Cable Act specified that women marrying aliens ineligible for naturalization lose their US citizenship. At the time, all Asians were ineligible for naturalization. The Immigration Act of 1924 barred entry of all those ineligible for naturalization, which again meant non-Filipino Asians.

Following the Spanish American War in 1898, Philippine residents were classified as US nationals. But the 1934 Tydings-McDuffie Act, or Philippine Independence Act, reclassified Filipinos as aliens, and set a quota of 50 immigrants per year, and otherwise applying the Immigration Act of 1924 to them. The quotas did not apply to Filipinos who served in the United States Navy, which actively recruited in the Philippines at that time.

Asians were first permitted naturalization by the 1943 Magnuson Act, which repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act. India and the Philippines were allowed 100 annual immigrants under the 1946 Filipino Naturalization Act. The War Brides Act of 1945 permitted soldiers to bring back their foreign wives and established precedent in naturalization through marriage.

The 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act (better known as the McCarran-Walter Act), lifted racial restrictions, but kept the quotas in place. The Immigration Act of 1965 finally allowed Asians and all persons from all nations be given equal access to immigration and naturalization.

Illegal immigration became a major issue in the US at the end of the 20th century. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, while tightening border controls, also provided the opportunity of naturalization for illegal aliens who had been in the country for at least four years.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 streamlined the naturalization process for children adopted internationally. A child under age 18 who is adopted by at least one U.S. citizen parent, and is in the custody of the citizen parent(s), is now automatically naturalized once admitted to the United States as an immigrant or when legally adopted in the United States, depending on the visa under which the child was admitted to the U.S.

Other countries

The following list is a short summary of the duration of legal residence before a national of a foreign state, without any cultural, historical, or marriage ties or connections to the state in question, can request citizenship under that state's naturalization laws.

  • Canada: 3 years continuous (1,095 days) as a permanent resident (dual citizenship is allowed)[2]
  • Netherlands: 5 years continuous[3] (dual citizenship allowed under specific circumstances, such as acquiring a spouse's nationality, otherwise prohibited)
  • New Zealand: 5 years continuous (reside in NZ for at least 240 days in each of those 5 years, 1,350 days in total) as a permanent resident immediately before the application (dual citizenship is allowed)[4]
  • Belgium: 3 years continuous[5]
  • Ireland: 5 years over the last 9 years, including at least 1 year before applying.[6] Dual citizenship is allowed, however Irish citizenship can be revoked if a naturnalized citizen obtains citizenship of another state (other than automatic citizenship by marriage) subsequent to naturalization or leaves the state for an extended period without periodically expressing their intention to return.

Massive naturalizations

A few rare massive naturalizations procedures have been implemented by nation states. In 1891, Brazil granted naturalization to all aliens living in the country.[7] In 1922, Greece massively naturalized all the Greek refugees coming back from Turkey. The second massive naturalization procedure was in favor of Armenian refugees coming from Turkey, who went to Syria, Lebanon or other former Ottoman countries. Canada instituted a mass naturalization by Act of Parliament with the enactment of the Canadian Citizenship Act 1946.

After annexation of the territories east of the Curzon line by the Soviet Union in 1945, communists naturalized en masse all the inhabitants of those territories - including ethnic Poles, as well as its other citizens who had been deported into the Soviet Union, mainly to Kazakhstan. Those persons were forcibly naturalized as Soviet citizens. Later on, Germany granted to ethnic German population in Russia and Kazakhstan full citizenship rights. Poland has a limited repatriation program in place.

The most recent massive naturalization case resulted from the Argentine economic crisis in the beginning of the 21st century. Existing or slightly updated Right of return laws in Spain and Italy allowed many of their diasporic descendants to obtain—in many cases to regain—naturalization in virtue of jus sanguinis, as in the Greek case. Hence, many Argentinians and Latin Americans acquired European nationality.

Since the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution grants citizenship only to those "born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof", and the original United States Constitution only grants Congress the power of naturalization, it could be argued that all acts of Congress that expand the right of citizenship are cases of massive naturalization. This includes the acts that extended U.S. citizenship to citizens of Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 which made all Native Americans citizens (most of them were previously excluded under the "jurisdiction" clause of the 14th Amendment).


Denaturalization is the reverse of naturalization, when a state deprives one of its citizens of his or her citizenship. From the point of view of the individual, denaturalization means "revocation" or "loss" of citizenship. Denaturalization can be based on various legal justifications. The most severe form is the "stripping of citizenship" when denaturalization takes place as a penalty for actions considered criminal by the state, often only indirectly related to nationality, for instance for having served in a foreign military. In countries that enforce single citizenship, voluntary naturalization in another country will lead to an automatic loss of the original citizenship; the language of the law often refers to such cases as "giving up one's citizenship" or (implicit) renunciation of citizenship. Another case, affecting only foreign-born citizens, denaturalization can refer to the loss of citizenship by an annulment of naturalization, also known as "administrative denaturalization" where the original act of naturalization is found to be invalid, for instance due to an administrative error or if it had been based on fraud (including bribery). In the US, the Bancroft Treaties in the 19th century regulated legislation concerning denaturalization.

After World War II

Loss of U.S. citizenship was a consequence of foreign military service based on Section 349(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act until its provisions were found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1967. Following the 1923 United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind Supreme Court decision, which held Indian-origin immigrants could not claim to be Caucasian, and thus be given the privilege of US citizenship, A. K. Mozumdar, who had been naturalized ten years before, lost his nationality.

Yaser Esam Hamdi was a U.S. citizen captured in Afghanistan in 2001. The U.S. government claimed that he was fighting against U.S. and Afghan Northern Alliance forces with the Taliban. He was named by the Bush administration as an "illegal enemy combatant", and detained for almost three years without receiving any charges. On September 23, 2004, the United States Justice Department agreed to release Hamdi to Saudi Arabia on the condition that he gives up his U.S. citizenship, which was later revoked by the courts after his refusal to give it up.

In the United Kingdom

Section 4 of the British Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002[8] gave power to the Home Secretary to ‘deprive a person of a citizenship status if the Secretary of State is satisfied that the person has done anything seriously prejudicial to the vital interests’ of the United Kingdom etc., except in the case where such might render the person stateless.

Between World Wars

Before World War I, only a small number of countries had laws governing denaturalization that could be enforced against citizens guilty of "lacking patriotism". Such denaturalized citizens became stateless persons. During and after the war, most European countries passed amendments to revoke naturalization.[9]

In Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power or Bare Life (1998), philosopher Giorgio Agamben mentioned a number of denaturalization laws that were passed after World War I by most European countries:

"It is important to note that starting with the period of World War I, many European states began to introduce laws which permitted their own citizens to be denaturalized and denationalized. The first was France, in 1915, with regard to naturalized citizens of "enemy" origins; in 1922 the example was followed by Belgium, which revoked the naturalization of citizens who had committed "anti-national" acts during the war; in 1926 the Fascist regime in Italy passed a similar law concerning citizens who had shown themselves to be "unworthy of Italian citizenship"; in 1933 it was Austria's turn, and so forth, until in 1935 the Nuremberg Laws divided German citizens into full citizens and citizens without political rights. These laws - and the mass statelessness that resulted - mark a decisive turning point in the life of the modern nation-state and its definitive emancipation from the naive notions of "people" and "citizen.""

The 1915 French denaturalization law applied only to naturalized citizens with "enemy origins" who had kept their original nationality. Later under Raymond Poincaré's government, another law was passed in 1927 which entitled the government to denaturalize any new citizen who committed acts contrary to the national interest.

In 1916, Portugal passed a law which automatically denaturalized all citizens born to a German father.

In 1922, Belgium enacted a law revoking the naturalization of persons accused of having committed "antinational acts" during the war; this was supplemented in 1934 by a new decree against people "in dereliction of their duties as Belgian citizens."

After 1926 in Italy, people who were deemed not to deserve the Italian citizenship or who were considered to represent a threat to the public order could be denaturalized.

Egypt in 1926 and Turkey in 1928 enacted laws authorizing denaturalization of any person threatening the public order. Austria passed a similar law in 1933 by which it could denaturalize any citizen who participated in a hostile action against the state. Russia also passed several similar decrees after 1921.[9]

In 1933, Nazi Germany passed a law authorizing it to denaturalize any person "living abroad" and began restricting the citizenship rights of naturalized citizens of Jewish origin, followed in 1935 by citizens by birth on the basis of the Nuremberg laws.

During Vichy France, 15,000 persons, mostly Jews, were denaturalized (between June 1940 and August 1944), following the setting up, in July 1940, of a Commission charged of revision of naturalizations since the 1927 reform of the nationality law.[10]

Before World War I

In the United States, the proposed, but never ratified, Titles of Nobility amendment of 1810 would revoke the American citizenship of anyone who would "accept, claim, receive or retain, any title of nobility" or who would receive any gifts or honors from a foreign power.

See also


  1. ^ Schulze, Lorine McGinnis (2003) Retrieved April 23, 2005
  2. ^ Becoming a Canadian citizen: Who can apply
  3. ^ IND Verblijfwijzer
  4. ^ Residence Requirements
  5. ^ Nationality - Detail
  6. ^ Irish Citizenship - Becoming a Citizen of Ireland
  7. ^çao91.htm art. 69
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b John Hope Simpson, The Refugee Problem, Institute of International Affairs, October 1939, quoted by Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), section 2 on Imperialism, last chapter
  10. ^ François Masure, "Etat et identité nationale. Un rapport ambigu à propos des naturalisés, in Journal des anthropologues, hors-série 2007, pp.39-49 (see p.48) (in french).

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

NATURALIZATION, the term given in law to the acquisition by an alien of the national character or citizenship of a certain state, always with the consent of that state and of himself, but not necessarily with the consent of the state to which he previously belonged, which may refuse to its subjects the right of renouncing its nationality, called "expatriation," or may allow the right only on conditions which have not been fulfilled in the particular case. Hence although nationality in strict theory is always single, as liege homage was and allegiance in its proper sense is, it often happens that two states claim the same person as their national or subject. This conflict arises not only from naturalization having been granted without the corresponding expatriation having been permitted, but also from the fact that birth on the soil was the leading determinant of nationality by feudal law, and still is so by the laws of England and the United States (jus soli), while the nationality of the father is its leading determinant in those countries which have accepted Roman principles of jurisprudence (jus sanguinis). The conflict is usually solved for practical purposes by an understanding which is approximately general, namely that, in cases not provided for by treaty, no state shall protect those whom it claims as its nationals while residing in the territory of another state which claims them as its own nationals by any title, whether jus soli, jus sanguinis, naturalization, or the refusal to allow expatriation. On this footing the British foreign office, while it grants passports for travel to naturalized persons, will extend no protection to them against a claim of their former country, if they return to it, to exact military service due to it. The United States, asserting that expatriation is an inalienable right of man, maintains that, to lose his right to American protection, the emigrant who has been naturalized in the United States must have done that for which he might have been tried and punished at the moment of his departure; it claims to protect him against the exaction of what at that moment was merely a future liability ' Cf. Spencer, First Principles (1867), p. 398.

2 Cf. Prolegomena, § 60.

to military service, and this doctrine has been practically accepted by France in her dealings with America. Germany also accepted it by the treaty of 1868 between the United States and the North German Confederation, now in force for the German empire, subject to provisions that the emigrant's fixing his domicile in the old country shall be deemed a renunciation of his naturalization in the new, and that his living in the. old country for more than two years may be deemed to imply the absence of an intention to return to the new. Between the United States and Great Britain the convention of the 13th of May 1870 provides that naturalization in either is to be valid for all purposes immediately on its completion, but that if the resident shall renew his residence in his old country he may be readmitted to his old nationality, on his application and on such conditions as the readmitting government may impose.

The Naturalization Act 1870, which now governs the matter for England, does not say that the person naturalized becomes thereby a British subject, to which, if it had been said, a proviso might have been added saving the above-mentioned policy of the foreign office as to not protecting him in his old country, although even without such a proviso the foreign office would have been free to follow that policy. The act in question (s. 7) gives him the rights and imposes on him the duties of a naturalborn British subject in the United Kingdom, and provides that, when within the limits of his old country, he shall not be deemed a British subject unless he has ceased to be a subject of that country, by its laws or in pursuance of a treaty. On this wording it has been maintained that British naturalization is not really naturalization at all; but leaves the naturalized person as he was with the addition of a certain quality within the United Kingdom; and on that ground it has been considered in France that a Frenchman, obtaining naturalization in England, does not fall within the French law (Code Civil, Art. 17) which pronounces the expatriation of citizens who cause themselves to be naturalized abroad. This is the Bourgoise Case, 41 Ch. D. 310, in which,, when it came before the English courts, Mr Justice Kay inclined to the same view, but the court of appeal avoided giving an opinion on the point. Professor Dicey leans to the same view (5 Law Quarterly Review, 438); but Sir Thomas Barclay (4 L.Q. R. 2 26), Sir Malcolm Mcllwraith (6 L.Q.R. 379), and Professor Westlake (International Law Peace, 2nd ed. p. 234; Private International Law, 4th ed. p. 356) adopt the view that the Naturalization Act 1870 makes the naturalized person a full British subject, only to be treated in his old country in accordance with the international principles recognized by the British executive. And the foreign office, by granting passports to naturalized persons, acts on the same view. The point is important with reference to the question whether the naturalization of the father in the United Kingdom confers the character of British subjects on his children afterwards born abroad. (See Alien.) An analogous question arises on the provision in the Naturalization Act 1870, sec. 16, that the legislature of any British possession may make laws "for imparting to any person the privileges of naturalization, to be enjoyed by such person within the limits of such possession." This, in accordance with the wider view of the effect of naturalization in the United Kingdom, may mean that naturalization in pursuance of a colonial law confers the full character of a British subject, only without removing disabilities, such as that to hold land, under which the naturalized person may have lain as an alien in any other British possession. On that footing the foreign office grants passports to the holders of colonial certificates of naturalization, and protects them in all foreign countries but that of their origin; and the Merchant Shipping Act 1894, sec. 1, allows persons naturalized in British possessions to be owners of British ships. On the other hand, those who maintain the narrower view of the effect of naturalization in the United Kingdom naturally hold that colonial naturalization has no effect at all outside the British possession in which it is granted.

Naturalization in India is regulated by the British Indian Naturalization Act, No. 30 of 1852, under which it may be granted to subjects of the several princes and states in India as well as to those who are entirely aliens to the British empire. The former, however, are treated for several purposes as British subjects even without being so naturalized.

In most countries a lengthened sojourn is a condition precedent to naturalization. In Belgium, the United Kingdom, North America and Russia the period of such sojourn is fixed at five years, in France, Greece and Sweden at three, in the Argentine Republic two, while in Portugal a residence of one year is sufficient. In Germany, Austria and Italy no period of residence is prescribed, while in Austria a ten years' residence confers per se the rights of citizenship. In the United States an alien desiring to be naturalized must declare on oath his intention to become a citizen of the United States; two years afterwards must declare on oath his intention to support the constitution of the United States and renounce allegiance to every foreign power, including that of which he was before a subject; must prove residence in the United States for five years, and in the state where his application is made for one year, as a good citizen; and must renounce any title of nobility. In France an alien desiring naturalization, if he has not resided continuously in the country for ten years, must obtain permission to establish his domicile in France; three years after (in special cases one year) he is entitled to apply for naturalization, which involves the renunciation of any existing allegiance.

See further, Allegiance, International Law (Private); also Bar, Private International Law (Gillespie's translation); Hansard, Law relating to Aliens; Cutler, Law of Naturalization; Cockburn, Nationality; Cogordan, Nationalit y; Heffter, Europaisches Volker- :recht; Hall, Foreign Jurisdiction of the British Crown; Westlake, International Law - Peace, and Private International Law (4th ed.).

(JNO. W.)

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Simple English

Naturalization is when a person changes his or her nationality. Most people have the nationality of the country where they are born and grow up. If they move to another country they will still keep their own nationality at first, but if they stay there for many years and want to stay there for the rest of their lives they may want to change their nationality. Different countries have different laws about nationalization. Usually the person will have to make a promise in a court of law. He will have to promise to be a good citizen and obey the country's laws.

Sometimes, it is still possible for someone to keep their first nationality as well as getting a new one. This is called "dual nationality". Sometimes children whose parents have different nationalities are allowed to have dual nationality.

Someone who has been naturalized will normally have all the rights that any other person belonging to that country has.


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