Nationality Act of 1940

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The Nationality Act of 1940 (H.R. 9980; Pub.L. 76-853; 54 Stat. 1137) revised numerous provisions of law relating to American citizenship and naturalization. It was enacted by the 76th Congress of the United States and signed into law on October 14, 1940, a year after World War II had begun in Europe, but before the U.S. entered the war.

The law revised "the existing nationality laws of the U.S. into a more complete nationality code"; it defined those persons who were "eligible for citizenship through birth or naturalization" and clarified "the status of individuals and their children born or residing in the continental U.S., its territories such as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Philippines, Panama and the Canal Zone, or abroad."[1] The law furthermore defined who was not eligible for citizenship, and how citizenship could be lost or terminated.

Major provisions[edit]

The law amended some provisions of the Immigration Act of 1924. In turn, some provisions of the 1940 law were amended or superseded by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952.

Section 401 (later Section 349(a)(8) of the 1952 law) provided that natural-born American citizens would lose their citizenship if convicted of military desertion during time of war. This was struck down by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Trop v. Dulles (1958) as being a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. In 1967, the Court held in Afroyim v. Rusk that a person cannot be deprived of citizenship without his or her consent; in particular, it ruled that a provision of the 1940 act for automatic loss of citizenship for voting in a foreign election was an unconstitutional violation of the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Section 402 of the act provided for loss of citizenship by naturalized citizens who lived abroad. By October 1946, about 400 naturalized citizens from Britain had lost U.S. citizenship under that provision, primarily because they had returned to the United Kingdom during World War II and chose to settle there, while another 200 moved back to the United States in order to avoid losing their U.S. citizenship under this provision.[2]


The law is divided into several chapters, as follows:

  • Title I - "This Act may be cited as the Nationality Act of 1940."
    • Chapter I - Definitions
    • Chapter II - Nationality at Birth
    • Chapter III - Nationality through Naturalization
    • Chapter IV - Loss of Nationality
    • Chapter V - Miscellaneous
  • Title II - "This Act shall take effect from and after ninety days from the date of its approval. Approved October 14, 1940."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pineiro-Hall, Esther. "U. S. Immigration Law Online," 2007, accessed 1 April 2013.
  2. ^ "400 Americans give up rights". The Spokesman-Review. 1946-10-15. Retrieved 2013-07-05. 

External links[edit]