Naturalization Law of 1802

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The United States Congress passed the Naturalization Law of 1802 on April 14, 1802.[1] The 1802 act replaced the Naturalization Act of 1798, and provided:

  • The "free white" requirement remained in place
  • The alien had to declare, at least three years in advance, his intent to become a U.S. citizen.
  • The previous 14-year residency requirement was reduced to 5 years.
  • Resident children of naturalized citizens were to be considered citizens
  • Children born abroad of US citizens were to be considered citizens
  • Former British soldiers during the "late war" were barred unless the state legislature made an exception for them

The 1802 Act further directed the clerk of the court to record the entry of all aliens into the United States. The clerk collected information including the applicant's name, birthplace, age, nation of allegiance, country of emigration, and place of intended settlement, and granted each applicant a certificate that could be exhibited to the court as evidence of time of arrival in the United States.

Certain doubts had arisen under the previous Act as to whether State and local courts were included within the description of U.S. district or circuit courts. The act of 1802 reaffirmed that every State and Territorial court was considered a district court within the meaning of the laws pertaining to naturalization, and that any persons naturalized in such courts were accorded the same rights and privileges as if they had been naturalized in a district or circuit court of the United States.

The act of 1802 was the last major piece of naturalization legislation during the 19th century. A number of minor revisions were introduced, but these merely altered or clarified details of evidence and certification without changing the basic nature of the admission procedure. The most important of these revisions occurred in 1855, when citizenship was automatically granted to alien wives of U.S. citizens,[2] and in 1870, when the naturalization process was opened "to persons of African descent".[3]


  1. ^ 2 Stat. 153
  2. ^ (10 Stat. 604)
  3. ^ 16 Stat. 254