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1940 Nationality Act (An act to revise and codify the nationality laws of the United States into a comprehensive nationality code)

H.R. 9980; Pub.L. 76-853; 54 Stat. 1137.

76th Congress; October 14, 1940.

You can find the full text of this law as a PDF here.



The objectives of this act are to revise the existing nationality laws of the U.S. into a more complete nationality code. Its focus is to clearly identify who is eligible for citizenship through birth or naturalization requirements. It is particularly relevant in clarifying 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 during this period. The act also identifies groups who are ineligible for citizenship.

Chapter II-Nationality at Birth: Sections in Chapter II of this act identify eligibility for citizenship for persons born in the U.S. or its territories as well as specific residency requirements for persons born abroad to one US citizen parent.

Chapter III- Nationality through Naturalization: Sections in this chapter give further clarifications of requirements for aliens seeking U.S. citizenship (naturalization). Although sex and marital status cannot be considered in denying eligibility, specifications concerning race/ethnicity, basic verbal English proficiency and residency requirements are outlined.

Exceptions to the residency requirements are made for those temporarily absent due to performing duties related to military service; clergy and nuns; employment abroad for US government or corporations.

Finally, engaging in specific activities render the following groups ineligible for citizenship: persons who oppose or assist organizations that oppose organized government or promote the overthrow of the U.S. government; convicted avoiders of draft or deserters of military or naval forces during times of war were ineligible for citizenship.

(Summary by Esther Pineiro-Hall)



Library of Congress: The World of 1898; The Spanish American War - This link to the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress includes information on the Spanish-American War and the impact it had on the status of Cuba, Guam, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Spain.

ToPuertoRico.org/history - This link has a timeline that tracks the island’s history from 1900 to the present and gives insight as to the various legislative acts that have affected the citizenships status of Puerto Ricans living both on the island and in the continental USA.

ClassBrain.com U.S. Territories - This is a resource website for parents, teachers and students of all ages and provides basic historical, political, geographical and economic information (“reports”) on the U.S. states, U.S. territories and other countries.

Digitas Harvard: First Citizen - This link is to an article concerning the 1994-95 case where Juan Mari Bras, a Puerto Rican lawyer and political historian, relinquished his US citizenship and was given proof of his Puerto Rican citizenship by the Puerto Rican State Department thus becoming the first and only citizen of Puerto Rico and exemplifying the continued obscurity of the definition of citizenship status.

Immigration Daily - This website offers free information on immigration law, seminars, referrals to law firms, as well as this direct link to an article by Marian Smith which addresses the role of race and nationality in INS legislation since 1978 and refers to the Nationality Act of 1940.


Many thanks to Hein Online for document provision, and The University of Washington-Bothell Library, for arranging web hosting. If you have any questions about this site, please contact the course instructor, Sarah Starkweather, at sarah [dot] starkweather [at] gmail [dot] com.