Naturalization | Social Studies
Within the Civics and Government topics of the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™, you’re asked to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues regarding naturalization.
Today we will discuss this term in more detail, and take a look at how naturalization evolved and is handled in America.
What is naturalization?
In general terms, naturalization is the legal process by which a foreign citizen becomes a citizen of a new country. The rules of naturalization vary from country to country.
In the United States, naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Who qualifies for naturalization in the U.S.?
The USCIS states that a foreign citizen or national qualifies for naturalization if:
- He or she has been a permanent resident for at least 5 years and has met all other eligibility requirements.
- He or she has been a permanent resident for 3 years or more and has met all eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a U.S. citizen.
- He or she has qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces and has met all other eligibility requirements.
Children born outside of the U.S. can also qualify for naturalization and gain citizenship through their parents after specific eligibility requirements are met.
The 14th Amendment and Naturalization
The first sentence of Section 1 in the 14th Amendment is known as the Citizenship Clause. It states that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”
The Dred Scott v. Sandford decision declared that African Americans were not and could not become citizens of the U.S. or enjoy any of the privileges and immunities of U.S. citizenship. The Citizenship Clause was Congress' reversal to a portion of the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision.
The Naturalization Act of 1795
The Naturalization Act of 1795 repealed and replaced the Naturalization Act of 1790. The 1795 act increased the period of required residence in the U.S. from two to five years.
The Naturalization Act of 1798
The Naturalization Act of 1798 increased the period of time necessary for immigrants to become naturalized U.S. citizens from 5 to 14 years.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
At the end of the 20th century, illegal immigration became a major issue in the U.S. In order to control and deter illegal immigration, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was passed. According to the USCIS, major provisions to this act included:
- Legalization of undocumented aliens who had been continuously and unlawfully in the U.S. since 1982
- Legalization of certain agricultural workers
- Sanctions for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers
- Increased enforcement at U.S. borders