List of United States immigration legislation

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There has been a number of Immigration Acts in the United States, but the first restriction on immigration did not occur until 1875. Prior to that point, immigration was distinct from citizenship and naturalization.


  • The Naturalization Act of 1790 established the rules for naturalized citizenship, as per Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, but placed no restrictions on immigration. Citizenship was limited to white persons, with no other restriction on non-whites.
  • The Naturalization Act of 1795 lengthened required residency to become citizen.
  • The Naturalization Act of 1798 further lengthened required residency to become citizen, registered white immigrants to establish date of initial residency.


  • The Naturalization Act of 1879
  • The Page Act of 1875 was the first act restricting immigration.
  • The Immigration Act of 1882 imposed a 50 cent head tax to fund immigration officials.
  • The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) allowed the U.S. to suspend Chinese immigration, a ban that was intended to last 10 years.
  • The 1885 Alien Contract Labor Law (Sess. II Chap. 164; 23 Stat. 332), also known as the Foran Act, was an act to prohibit the importation and migration of foreigners and aliens under contract or agreement to perform labor in the United States, its Territories, and the District of Columbia.[1]
  • The Act of 1891 extended the federal government's power to deport immigrants and established an Office of the Superintendent of Immigration within the Treasury Department.[1][2] The Supreme Court held that this act was constitutional in Yamataya v. Fisher (Japanese Immigrant Case).
  • The Geary Act of 1892 extended and strengthened the Chinese Exclusion Act.


  • The Immigration Act of 1903, also called the Anarchist Exclusion Act, added four inadmissible classes: anarchists, beggars, and importers of prostitutes.
  • The Naturalization Act of 1906 standardized naturalization procedures, made some knowledge of English a requirement for citizenship, and established the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization.
  • The Immigration act of 1907 restricted immigration for certain classes of disabled and diseased people.
  • The Immigration Act of 1917 (Barred Zone Act) restricted immigration from Asia by creating an "Asiatic Barred Zone" and introduced a reading test for all immigrants over fourteen years of age, with certain exceptions for children, wives, and elderly family members.
  • The Immigration Act of 1918 expanded on the provisions of the Anarchist Exclusion Act.
  • The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 restricted annual immigration from a given country to 3% of the number of people from that country living in the U.S. in 1910.
  • The Cable Act of 1922 (ch. 411, 42 Stat. 1021, "Married Women’s Independent Nationality Act") was a United States federal law that reversed former immigration laws regarding marriage, also known as the Married Women's Citizenship Act or the Women's Citizenship Act. Previously, a woman lost her US citizenship if she married a foreign man, since she assumed the citizenship of her husband, a law that did not apply to men who married foreign women. The law repealed sections 3 and 4 of the Expatriation Act of 1907.[1]
  • The Immigration Act of 1924 (also known as the Johnson Act) introduced nationality quotas, aimed at freezing the current ethnic distribution in response to rising immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, as well as Asia.
    • The National Origins Formula was established with the Immigration Act of 1924. Total annual immigration was capped at 150,000. Immigrants fit into two categories: those from quota-nations and those from non-quota nations. Immigrant visas from quota-nations were restricted to the same ratio of residents from the country of origin out of 150,000 as the ratio of foreign-born nationals in the United States. The percentage out of 150,000 was the relative number of visas a particular nation received. Non-quota nations, notably those contiguous to the United States only had to prove an immigrant's residence in that country of origin for at least two years prior to emigration to the United States. Laborers from Asiatic nations were excluded but exceptions existed for professionals, clergy, and students to obtain visas.
  • The Nationality Act of 1940 pertains chiefly to "Nationality at Birth," Nationality through Naturalization," and "Loss of Nationality". Certain miscellaneous matters are also dealt with.
  • The Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943 repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act and permitted Chinese nationals already in the country to become naturalized citizens.



  • The REAL ID Act (2005) created more restrictions on political asylum, severely curtailed habeas corpus relief for immigrants, increased immigration enforcement mechanisms, altered judicial review, and imposed federal restrictions on the issuance of state driver's licenses to immigrants and others.


  1. ^ Torrie Hester, “Protection, Not Punishment: Legislative and Judicial formation of U.S. Deportation Policy, 1882-19044” Journal of American Ethnic History 30, no. 1 (2010), 14.
  2. ^ Immigration Act of 1891

Further reading[edit]

  • Lemay, Michael and Elliott Robert Barkan, eds. U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Laws and Issues: A Documentary History, Greenwood Press, 1999. ISBN 0-313-30156-5
  • Zolberg, Aristide. A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America, Harvard University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-674-02218-1

External links[edit]