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H.R. 15442, A Bill to establish a Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization . . . (Basic Naturalization Act), February 22, 1906

Congress passed the Basic Naturalization Act on June 29, 1906. It established new rules and requirements for attaining citizenship and created the Federal Naturalization Service as an agency of the Bureau of Immigration to oversee all naturalization courts and cases. The act governed U.S. naturalization until superseded by the Nationality Act of 1940.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

H.R. 15442, A Bill to establish a Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization . . . (Basic Naturalization Act), February 22, 1906

Defining the Path to Citizenship

With large numbers of immigrants arriving after 1875, Congress passed several restrictive immigration laws in the 1880s. In the early twentieth century, it then addressed issues of fraud and inconsistency in the naturalization process. Since 1802 Congress had defined naturalization and citizenship requirements by statute but delegated the administration of laws to the courts. In 1905 a commission found more than five thousand naturalization courts operating without central supervision. To institute standardized procedures, Congress passed the Basic Naturalization Act of 1906 and created the Federal Naturalization Service.

The primary reason for the lax and loose administration of the naturalization laws has been . . . the large number of courts of different characters of jurisdiction throughout the United States.

Representative Robert Bonynge of Colorado, Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives, 1906