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The Naturalization Act

As one of its earliest acts, Congress enacted the Naturalization Act of 1790, determining who could receive U.S. citizenship.


The Naturalization Act was the first law that explicitly determined who should be granted U.S. citizenship. It allowed any free white person of “good character” living in the United States for two years or longer to apply. Non-white residents were denied basic constitutional protections, including the right to testify in court, own property, or vote.