Learn more about Naturalization
|Legal status of Persons|
In law, naturalization is the act whereby a person voluntarily and actively acquires a citizenship which is not his or her citizenship at birth. Naturalization is most associated with economic migrants or refugees who have immigrated to a country and resided there as an alien, and who have voluntarily chosen to become a citizen of that country after meeting specific requirements. Denaturalization is the reverse of naturalization, when a state deprives one of its citizens of his or her citizenship. After World War I, many European countries, including democracies, passed denaturalization laws, of which the 1935 Nuremberg Laws remained the most famous.
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 he currently holds, 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 either based 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 has 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 had been 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 which had escaped the 1917 October Revolution and the war communism period), and then the Spanish refugees. As did Hannah Arendt point 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 or by having ancestors who are nationals of that country), in order to reduce the scope of this category. However, this system still maintains in some countries 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 laws
 Early examples
There had always been a distinction in English law between the subjects of the monarch and aliens: the monarch's subjects owed him allegiance, and included those born in his dominions (natural-born subjects) and those who later gave him their allegiance (naturalized subjects).
 Naturalization 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.
 Naturalisation in the United Kingdom
The requirements for naturalisation 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 naturalisation. 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:
- 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 naturalisation must be of "good character". Naturalisation is at the discretion of the Home Secretary but is normally granted if the requirements are met.
 Naturalization in the United States
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.
There is an interesting loophole here in that 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 anti-Federalist 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. [Schulze, Lorine McGinnis (2003) http://www.naturalizationrecords.com/usa/ Retrieved April 23, 2005]
Passage of the Fourteenth Amendment meant that, in theory, all persons born in the U.S. are citizens regardless of race. However it was not applied to Asians at the time. The enabling legislation for the naturalization aspects of the Fourteenth Amendment was the 1870 Page Act, 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.
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.
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.
 Massive naturalizations
A few rare massive naturalizations procedures have been implemented by nation states. 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.
The most recent massive naturalization case happened after the Argentine economic crisis that led to political and economic collapse in the beginning of the 21st century. Spain and Italy then allowed Argentine citizens who could prove being a third generation Spanish (or Italian) descendant to ask for naturalization (in virtue of jus sanguinis, as in the Greek case). Hence, many of the Argentine middle and upper class (those who could afford flying away from their country) managed to acquire European nationality, allowing them not to be confined to the illegal alien status.
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).
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Before World War I, a few countries had some rules governing denaturalization, which could be enforced against a citizen who ceased having authentic patriotic feelings. Such denaturalized citizens became stateless persons. According to John Hope Simpson, most European states passed amendments during the war to be able to cancel naturalization <ref> 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 </ref>. In Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power or Bare Life (1998), philosopher Giorgio Agamben has also pointed out how various denaturalization laws 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 law on denaturalizations applied itself only to naturalized citizens with "enemy origins" that had kept their original nationality. Later under Raymond Poincaré's government, in 1927, a law was passed which entitled the government to denaturalize any new citizen which committed acts contrary to the national interest.
In 1916, Portugal passed a law which automatically denaturalized all citizens born from a German father.
In 1922, Belgium voted a law canceling the naturalization of persons accused of having committed "antinational acts" during the war; which was enforced in 1934 by a new decree which cited people "gravely missing to their duties as Belgian citizens." Since 1926 in Italy, people who did not deserve Italian citizenship or who were considered to represent a threat to public order could be denaturalized.
Egypt in 1926 and Turkey in 1928 enacted laws authorizing them to denaturalize any person threatening the public order. Austria passed a similar law in 1933 by which it could denaturalize any citizen which had participated in a hostile action against Austria. Finally Germany in 1933 passed a law authorizing it to denaturalize any person "living abroad." Russia had also passed several decrees since 1921 <ref> Hannah Arendt, op.cit. </ref>.
In America in 1810 an act was proposed that would deny an Ameican national of citizenship if he held a title of nobility, accepted a title of nobility, or stood to inherit a title of nobility from a foreign power, as it would constitute a conflict of interest. This was passed but never ratified, though it could still be reintroduced.
After World War II, the US government wanted to prevent American citizens from fighting as a mercenary (a popular trade before World War II) or as a combatant in a foreign armed force in a conflict the United States had no involvement in (like in World War I, Spanish Civil War, or World War II ). So in 1946? it was made illegal for an American to serve in any capacity of service for a foreign power. This was applied to American Jews like Marcus "Mickey" Stone who served in the Israeli Army.
The massive cancelation of naturalizations, as those implemented by Germany in 1933 against naturalized persons with Jewish origins, preceded most of the time the denationalisation of citizens by birth (for example with the 1935 Nuremberg laws). Then, in the 1930s in Belgium and some Western democracies, laws were passed authorizing denaturalizations by simple decrees, and some mass denaturalization were enacted. Hannah Arendt thus recall the action of the Greek government towards the Armenian refugees: 1 000 refugees on a total of 45 000 Armenian refugees were naturalized between 1923 and 1928. After 1928, the law that authorized to naturalize all refugees less than 22 years old was suspended; in 1936, all the naturalizations were canceled by the government <ref> Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, section 2 on Imperialism, last chapter </ref>.