Naturalization is the process by which an immigrant becomes an American citizen. Historically, the naturalization process had two steps:
Applicants had to wait a specified period of time between filing their Declaration of Intent and Final Papers. Over the years, these residency requirements have changed, but the shortest wait-time was 3 years.
No. Many immigrants completed the process and became citizens. Others filed a Declaration of Intent but no Final Papers. And some immigrants never filed any naturalization papers at all. In fact, according to the National Archives, 25% of the foreign-born persons listed on the 1890 through 1930 censuses had not completed any part of the naturalization process.
For many years, naturalization papers could be filed in any court of law.
If a family moved around in the midst of their naturalizaiton process, it is possible for Final Papers to be filed in a different court than First Papers.
County courts stopped granting naturalizations at various times between 1906 and the 1970s, so the ending dates for the records vary from county to county.
After the county courts stopped granting citizenship, all naturalizations went through the federal courts. The Minnesota Historical Society does not have federal records. For more information on Federal Naturalization records, please see the More section of this research guide.
Alien - A citizen of one country living in another country
Alien Registration - One of several efforts by state or federal governments to record information about all non-citizens, conducted during World War I and World War II
Declaration of Intent - First step to legal citizenship in the U.S., requiring the alien to declare his true intent to become a citizen and renounce his previous loyalties; also called "First Papers"
Derivative Citizenship - When a person's citizenship status is based on that of another person (children from their parents, for example).
Naturalization - Process by which an alien becomes a citizen
Petition for Naturalization - Final naturalization step in the U.S., requiring a formal application for legal citizenship ; also called "Final Papers"
Records of Naturalization and Oaths of Allegiance - Document that grants U.S. citizenship; also called the "Certificate of Naturalization"
SoundEx - An indexing system that allows simultaneous searching for names that sound similar, but are spelled differently
Visa - Official document allowing a non-citizen to enter the country, issued by U.S. embassies or consulates