Uruguayan nationality

Acquired only through birth and never lost

By William Wetherall

First posted 15 June 2014
Last updated 1 July 2014

Citizenship without nationality Uruguay's 1957 nationality reservation | Citizenship and suffrage articles in Uruguay's Constitution | Alainis et al. on Uruguayan nationality | 1908 Naturalization Convention Between the United States and Uruguay

Citizenship without nationality

The usual and unfortunate habit of writers about nationality and citizenship is to conflate the terms, as though they have the same meaning. Even writers who go to the trouble to preface their conflation with a cautionary reminder that the two terms are fundamentally different are apt to consider citizenship -- narrowly associated with rights of suffrage -- follows nationality, hence possession of the "nationality" in most states today is tantamount to being a "citizen" of the state.

This is partly due to the influence of countries like the United States, in which the "citizen" and "citizenship" are the dominant legal expressions for membership and rights of membership in the state's sovereign nation. In the United Stations, "national" and "nationality" are relatively unfamiliar terms among the general public, which in any event is likely to associate "national origin" and "nationality" with race or ethnicity.

Journalists and scholars who write in English about Japan are likely to ignore, if even they are aware of, the fact that Japan's domestic laws define only "national" and "nationality" and not "citizen" or "citizenship" as effects of possessing Japan's nationality. Writers aware of the distinction are apt to "naturalize" Japanese "national" and "nationality" into English "citizen" and "citizenship" simply to accommodate their readers, as though their readers might not want to understand that not all legal systems speak in the same metaphors.

This is not merely a translation problem but a problem of recognizing the differences in legal systems. Local metaphors need to be taken seriously. The metaphors of Uruguayan nationality and citizenship laws are another case in point. Uruguay's distinction between "nationality" and "citizenship" literally upsets the notion that citizenship derives from nationality.

The conventional notion that citizenship derives from nationality, hence nationality is equivalent to citizenship, is actually very limiting, for this precludes the possibility -- constitutionally legalized in Uruguay -- that "citizenship", if meaning rights of suffrage, has nothing to do with "nationality" and that aliens as well as nationals can be "citizens" of a state.

Uruguayan law also stands conventional wisdom in its head by entirely separating the notions of "dual nationality" and "dual citizenship" -- and permitting the former but not the latter.

By now you are wondering -- how is this possible?


Uruguay's reservation to 1957 nationality convention

Article 3 of the 1957 Convention on the Nationality of Married Women makes the following provision for the alien wife of a national to acquire "his" (sic) nationality through eased naturalized procedures.

Article 3

  1. Each Contracting State agrees that the alien wife of one of its nationals may, at her request, acquire the nationality of her husband through specially privileged naturalization procedures; the grant of such nationality may be subject to such limitations as may be imposed in the interests of national security or public policy.

  2. Each Contracting State agrees that the present Convention shall not be construed as affecting any legislation or judicial practice by which the alien wife of one of its nationals may, at her request, acquire her husband's nationality as a matter of right.

The of Paragraph 1 is fairly clear. Article 6 of Japan's 1950 Nationality Law was already in compliance with this provision for relaxing the requirements for naturalization of an alien wife. Article 5 relaxed requirements for an alien husband but not as much. Article 7 of the 1985 revision of the 1950 Nationality Law relaxes naturalization requires for the alien spouse -- husband or wife.

Uruguay's reservation to Article 3

Uruguay signed the Convention on the Nationality of Married Women on 20 February 1957, only 3 weeks after it was opened for signature, It has not ratified the convention, but when signing it made the following reservation to Article 3 (underscoring and [clarifications] mine.

  On behalf of Uruguay we hereby make a reservation to the provisions of article 3 which has a bearing on the application of the Convention [on the Nationality of Married Women]. The [5th] Constitution of Uruguay [1952-1967] does not authorize the granting of nationality to an alien unless he is the child of a Uruguayan father or mother, in which case he may become a natural citizen. This case apart, an alien who fulfils the constitutionality and legal conditions may be granted only legal citizenship, and not nationality.

In other words, Uruguay makes a clear distinction between "nationality" and "citizenship". "Nationality" is acquired only at time of birth and is never lost. Even if a natural citizen takes up residence and naturalizes in another country, they retain their Uruguayan nationality, they rights as "natural citizens" are activated simply by residing in Uruguay and registering in its Civil Register (Registro Cívico).

On the other hand, "legal citizenship" is acquired through approval by an Electoral Court only by aliens who are able to show that they are substantially domiciled in Uruguay. And Uruguay -- which has no objection to multiple "citizenship" defined as rights of suffrage -- will issue its alien "legal citizens" a Uruguayan passport, which depending on the laws of their country of nationality, may became a "second passport" in addition to their original passport. However, maintenance of status as a "legal citizen" requires certifiable evidence of a minimum period of residence in Uruguay each year. And "legal citizenship" is lost through "naturalization" in another country.

Two kinds of "citizens"

Uruguay defines two kinds of citizens in its constitution -- "natural citizens" (ciudadanos naturales) and "legal citizens" (ciudadanos legales).

Natural citizens

Natural citizens are people who acquired Uruguayan nationality through birth under jus soli if born within Uruguay, and through ambilineal jus sanguinis if born outside the country. Hence all children born in Uruguay are natural citizens, except the children of diplomats and other foreigners in the country as servants of the government of another country. And all children born outside Uruguay to a Uruguayan father or mother become natural citizens -- so long as their Uruguayan parent is not a citizen who was born outside Uruguay.

Legal citizens

Legal citizens are foreigners who qualify for "legal citizenship" (ciudadanía legal).


Uruguayan nationality and citizenship are essentially defined and governed by relevant articles in its national constitution (see next). In other words, Uruguay's "nationality law" is embedded in its constitution. A number of other laws have been passed to deal with issues that arise from interpreting the constitution.


Constitution of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay

The qualifications for natural and legal Uruguayan citizenship are stipulated in Section III (Articles 73-81) -- pertaining to "Citizenship and Suffrage" (De la Ciudadania y del Sufragio) -- in Uruguay's constitution.

The following representation of Section III shows the Spanish text of selected articles, and an unofficial English translation of all articles, which I have pieced together from various Internet sources.

Spanish text

The Spanish text represents the Spanish version of the Uruguay's 1967 (6th) constitution as ammended through 2004.

English text

The English text represents the 1967 constitution as ammended through 1996.

1952 (5th) and 1967 (6th) constitutions

The articles of Section III in the 1967 (6th) constitution -- their numbering and wording -- are identical to those of Section III in the 1952 (5th) constitution.

Markup and commentary

All underscoring, and all [blue bracketed] commentary and red highlighting, in both the Spanish and English texts, are mine. All uncolored [bracketed] particulars in the English text are as received.

Constitución de la República Oriental del Uruguay
Constitution of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay

27 November 1966
[ Spanish version as amended in 2004 ]
[ English version as amended in 1996 ]


De la Ciudadania y del Sufragio
Citizenship and Suffrage

Capitulo I
Chapter I

Artículo 73. (1952 and 1967 versions same)

Los ciudadanos de la República Oriental del Uruguay son naturales o legales.

Article 73.

Citizens of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay are natural or legal.

Artículo 74. (1952, 1967)

Ciudadanos naturales son todos los hombres y mujeres nacidos en cualquier punto del territorio de la República. Son también ciudadanos naturales los hijos de padre o madre orientales, cualquiera haya sido el lugar de su nacimiento, por el hecho de avecinarse en el país e inscribirse en el Registro Cívico.

Article 74.

All men and women born at any place within the territory of the Republic are natural citizens. Children of Uruguayan fathers or mothers are also natural citizens, wherever they may have been born, provided that they take up residence in the country and register themselves in the Civil Register.

Artículo 74. (1952, 1967)

Tienen derecho a la ciudadanía legal:

A) Los hombres y las mujeres extranjeros de buena conducta, con familia constituida en la República, que poseyendo algún capital en giro o propiedad en el país, o profesando alguna ciencia, arte o industria, tengan tres años de residencia habitual en la República.

B) Los hombres y las mujeres extranjeros de buena conducta, sin familia constituida en la República, que tengan alguna de las cualidades del inciso anterior y cinco años de residencia habitual en el país.

C) Los hombres y las mujeres extranjeros que obtengan gracia especial de la Asamblea General por servicios notables o méritos relevantes.

La prueba de la residencia deberá fundarse indispensablemente en instrumento público o privado de fecha comprobada.

Los derechos inherentes a la ciudadanía legal no podrán ser ejercidos por los extranjeros comprendidos en los incisos A) y B) hasta tres años después del otorgamiento de la respectiva carta.

La existencia de cualesquiera de las causales de suspensión a que se refiere el artículo 80, obstará al otorgamiento de la carta de ciudadanía.

Article 75.

The following have the right to legal citizenship:

A) Foreign men and women of good conduct, and having a family within the Republic, who possess some capital or property in the country, or are engaged in some profession, craft, or industry, and have resided habitually in the Republic for three years;

B) Foreign men and women of good conduct, without families in the Republic, who possess any of the qualifications mentioned in the preceding paragraph and who have resided habitually in the country for five years;

C) Foreign men and women who obtain special courtesy from the General Assembly for noteworthy services or outstanding merit.

Proof of residence must necessarily be based on a public or private document of proven date.

The rights appertaining to legal citizenship may not be exercised by foreigners included in paragraph (A) and (B) until three years after the issuance of the respective citizenship papers.

The existence of any of the grounds for suspension referred to in Article 80 shall bar the granting of citizenship papers.

Article 76.

Any citizen may hold public employment. Legal citizens may not be appointed until three years after obtaining citizenship papers.

Citizenship shall not be required for a position as professor in institutions of higher learning.

Chapter II

Article 77.

Every citizen is a member of the sovereignty of the Nation [ miembro de la soberanía de la Nación ]; as such he is a voter and eligible for election in the cases and in accordance with the procedure which will be set forth.

Suffrage shall be exercised in the manner determined by law, but on the following bases:

1) Compulsory inscription in the Civil Register [ Inscripción obligatoria en el Registro Cívico ];

2) Secret and compulsory vote. The law, by an absolute majority of the full membership of each Chamber, shall regulate the fulfillment of this obligation.

3) Integral proportional representation.

4) Judicial magistrates, members of the Contentious-Administrative Tribunal and the Tribunal of Accounts, Directors of the Autonomous Entities and the Decentralized Services, persons in active military service regardless of rank, and police officials of whatever category, must abstain, under penalty of dismissal and withdrawal of eligibility to hold any other public office for from two to ten years, from membership in political committees or clubs, from signing party proclamations, and from authorizing the use of their names and, in general, from any other public or private act of a political character, with the exception of voting. The participation of Directors of the Autonomous Entities and the Decentralized Services in party organizations engaged in the specific task of the study of government, legislation, and administration, is not regarded as included in these prohibitions.

The Electoral Court shall be competent to take cognizance of and impose penalties for the above-mentioned electoral offenses. The accusation should be made before the Electoral Court by either of the Chambers, the Executive Power, or the national authorities of the Parties.

Without prejudice to the above provisions, the facts shall in all cases be referred to the ordinary courts for such additional action as they may deem appropriate.

5) The President of the Republic and members of the Electoral Court may not belong to political committees or clubs, nor hold directive positions in party organizations, nor take part in any way in political election propaganda;

6) All electoral boards which may be designated to intervene in questions of suffrage must be elected with the guarantees provided in this article.

7) Any new law concerning the Civil Register or Elections, as well as any amendment or interpretation of the existing laws, shall require a two-thirds vote of the full membership of each Chamber. This special majority shall apply only to the guarantees of suffrage and election, composition, functions, and procedure of the Electoral Court and electoral boards. For action in matters of expenditures, budgets, and internal regulations, a simple majority will be sufficient.

8) By a two-thirds vote of the full membership of each Chamber, the law may extend the prohibitions contained in items (4) and (5) to include other officials.

9) The election of members of both Chambers of the Legislative Power, of the President and Vice President of the Republic, and of any organ for which the law may provide that its organization or composition be determined by popular election, except for those referred to in the third paragraph of this number, shall take place on the last Sunday of the month of October every five years, without prejudice to the provisions of Article 148 and 151.

The lists of candidates for both Chambers and for President and Vice President of the Republic shall be included on a ballot individualized with the slogan [lema] of a political party.

The election of the Intendants [Intendentes], the members of the Departmental Boards, and the other local elected authorities, shall take place on the second Sunday of the month of May of the year following the national elections. The lists of candidates for departmental positions must be listed on a ballot individualized with the slogan of a political party.

10) No Legislator or Intendant who resigns his post after assuming office shall have the right to collect any compensation or retirement benefit which might pertain to him by reason of his termination, until the full term for which he was elected has expired.

This provision does not include resignations because of illness duly substantiated by the Medical Board, nor those expressly authorized by three-fifths of the votes of the full membership of the body concerned, nor to Intendants who resign three months before an election in order to become a candidate.

11) The State shall secure the broadest freedom for the political parties. Without prejudice to the former, the parties shall:

a. effectively exercise internal democracy in the election of their authorities; [and,]

b. provide maximum publicity to their Organic Acts [Cartas Orgánicas] and Programs of Principles, in such a manner that the citizen can extensively familiarize himself with them.

12) The political parties shall select their candidate for the President of the Republic through internal elections that shall regulate the Law sanctioned by the vote of two-thirds of the total members [componentes] of each Chamber. The manner of electing the candidate of each party to the Vice President of the Republic shall be determined by an identical majority and, while said law is not prescribed, [the parties] shall comply with what the competent party organs have decided in this respect. This law shall also determine the manner in which the candidate vacancies for the Presidency and Vice Presidency [,] produced after the [party] election and before the national election [,] shall be filled.

Article 78.

Foreign men and women of good conduct, having a family in the Republic, who possess some capital or property within the country or are engaged in some profession, craft, or industry and have habitually resided at least fifteen years in the Republic have the right to vote without the necessity of previously obtaining legal citizenship.

Proof of residence must be based on a public or private document of proven date, and if the evidence is satisfactory to the authority competent to pass upon it, the foreigner will be entitled to exercise the right to vote from the time he is inscribed in the Civil Register, as authorized by a certificate issued by the same authority for this purpose.

Chapter III

Article 79.

The accumulation of votes for any elected office, with the exception of those for President and Vice President, shall be effected through use of the slogan of the political party. The Law, by a two-thirds vote of the full membership of each Chamber, shall establish rules for this requirement.

Twenty-five percent of all persons registered and qualified to vote may, within one year following their promulgation, demand a referendum against the laws and exercise the right of initiative before the Legislative Power. These institutions are not applicable with respect to laws imposing taxes. They are likewise inapplicable in those cases in which the initiative is an exclusive right of the Executive Power. Both institutions shall be regulated by law, enacted by an absolute majority of the full membership of each Chamber.

Chapter IV

Article 80.

Citizenship is suspended:

1) By physical or mental ineptitude which prevents free and reflective action;

2) By being under indictment on a criminal charge which may result in a penitentiary sentence;

3) By being under eighteen years of age;

4) By being under sentence which imposes the penalty of exile, prison, penitentiary, or loss of political rights during the term of the sentence;

5) By habitually engaging in morally dishonest activities which shall be specified by law in accordance with item 7 of Article 77;

6) By being a member of social or political organizations which advocate the destruction of the fundamental bases of the nation [ la nacionalidad ] by violence or propaganda inciting to violence. Those mentioned in Sections I and II of this Constitution are considered to be such for the purposes of this provision;

7) By a continuing lack of good conduct as required by Article 75.

The last two grounds shall apply only with respect to legal citizens.

Exercise of the right granted by Article 78 is suspended on the grounds listed above.

Chapter V

Articulo 81. (1952, 1967)

La nacionalidad no se pierde ni aun por naturalizarse en otro país, bastando simplemente, para recuperar el ejercicio de los derechos de ciudadanía, avecinarse en la República e inscribirse en el Registro Cívico.

Article 81.

Nationality is not lost even by naturalization in another country, it being sufficient for the purpose of retaining the rights of citizenship merely to take up residence in the Republic and register in the Civil Register.

La ciudadanía legal se pierde por cualquier otra forma de naturalización ulterior.

Legal citizenship is lost by any other form of subsequent naturalization.


Alainis et al. on Uruguayan nationality

Alainis, Massa, and Carrasco shed some light on Uruguay's distinction between "natural" and "legal" citizenship in the following book.

Walter Tomas Howard Alanis, Santiago Altieri Massa, and Mercedes Otegui Carrasco
Family Law in Uruguay
Alphen aan den Rijn (The Netherlands): Kluwer Law International, June 2011
292 pages

Chapter 5, Nationality, begins with these two observations (Alanis et al., 2011, page 71, Items 124 and 125).

  124   Natural citizenship and legal citizenship.   Nationality and citizenship are regulated mainly in Section III of the National Constitution. In Uruguay there are two forms of citizenship: (a) natural citizenship, that is the same as nationality, and (b) legal citizenship.

  125   Nationality and natural citizenship. (1) Determination of nationality.   The terms 'nationality' and 'natural citizenship' are practically equivalent expressions in the Uruguayan Constitution. Since the Constitution of 1918, the criterion chosen by Uruguay for the determination of who enjoys Uruguayan nationality -- called orientales or "natural citizens" -- has been the principle of 'jus soli', with some exceptions that adjusted the principle of 'jus sanguinis' in certain circumstances. Article 74 of the National Constitution defines 'natural citizens' as follows: 'Natural citizens are all the men and women born at any place within the territory of the Republic. Children of Uruguayan fathers or mothers are also natural citizens, with no consideration of the place of their birth, by the fact of coming into the country and registration in Registry of Civil Status.'

The "definition" slightly but insignificantly departs from the wording of the unofficial English version (see below).

The authors note that a 1989 law clarified that children born outside Uruguay to a Uruguayan parent who was also born outside the country did not have Uruguayan nationality. This means, they added, that only the 1st generation of Uruguayan nationality is transmitted only to the 1st generation of foreign-born offspring.(Item 126, page 71).

Statelessness   This also means -- though the authors don't say so here -- that 2nd-generation foreign-born offspring of two foreign-born Uruguayan parents stand to become stateless if born in Japan, which does not have a provision for attributing Japanese nationality to children born in Japan who are unable to acquire the nationality of either parent.

Alanis et al. also cite a critique of the Uruguayan distinction between "natural" and "legal" citizenship as erroneous, since even "natural" nationality is legally defined. To put it somewhat differently -- nationality, as a status, is an artifact of law. (Item 129, page 72)

The authors, after examining the legal process that results the an alien acquiring Uruguayan citizenship, remark that "As can be anticipated, Uruguayan nationality is attributive to citizenship."

"Nationality" as an attribute   The authors would seem to be inverting the usual notion that citizenship derives from nationality. That is, the phrase ""Uruguayan nationality is attributive to citizenship" would appear to mean that Uruguayan nationality follows or comes with legal citizenship, as an effect of qualifying for the constitutional right of an alien to be come a legal (as opposed to a natural) citizen. This refers to a different kind of "nationality" -- the sort of nationality associated with passports -- not the "natural" nationality defined by the Uruguayan constitution.

Legal citizens can obtain Uruguay passports, though application procedures are stricter than for natural citizens.

Uruguayan citizens applying for renewal of a Uruguayan passport at a Uruguayan consulate have to submit (1) current passport, (2) Cedula de Identidad (I.D.), (3) Local police record (clearance letter), (4) Recent passport photograph in color on white background, eyeglasses removed, and (5) Application form and fee. However, "legal citizens" are additionally required to present their (6) "Carta de Ciudadania" (citizenship document), (7) "Credencial Civica" (Voting ID), and (8) proof that no other citizenship has been acquired (such as a green card if in the United States, or a residence card if in Japan, or a visa in their Uruguayan passport to show that they legally entered the country as a Urugyanan).

Uruguayan passports, in compliance with international standards, shows that the bearer possesses the "NATIONALIDAD / NATIONALITY" of "URUGUAYA" -- but this is a matter of the this is not the "nationality" referred to in the Constitution. This is the legal attribute of nationality, which has currency in international law. It is not the "nationality" the constitution ascribes to natural citizens.

There is, after all, a reason why Uruguay's constitution, and Alanis et al., do not describe the process of becoming a legal citizen as "naturalization" -- for that would be a misnomer. Unlike Japan's nationality law, in which aliens truly "naturalize" -- i.e., they gain a legal status equal to that of natural-born Japanese nationals -- in Uruguay, the quality of "legal citizenship" is inferior to the quality of "natural citizenship", to a degree comparable with -- but not nearly as liberal -- as "naturalization" in, say, the United States.

The inability of foreigners to obtain Uruguayan nationality is stressed in the next item (Alanis et al., 2011, page 72).

  130   (3) Impossibility of foreigners obtaining Uruguayan nationality.   In accordance with the Constitution, foreigners who are not children of Uruguayans cannot obtain Uruguayan nationality or natural citizenship in any way, unlike the general rule of American legal systems, where it is possible to acquire nationality by means of a manifestation of will by the foreigner and approval on the part of the State. The maximum that the Uruguayan Constitution offers to foreigners is the possibility of obtaining legal citizenship. (Note 1) [ Citation reference omitted here. ]

"American legal systems" refers to legal systems in the Americas -- north, central, and south -- which generally make provisions for what their domestic laws refer to as "naturalization". Naturalized citizens of American states generally have political and other rights on a par with most other citizens, but the quality of naturalized citizenship varies from state to state. The first part of Article 2 of the Constitution of the United States places the following restrictions on edibility for the presidency.

No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

Japan's 1950 Nationality Law makes no differentiation in the quality of nationality of any of its nationals. Except for a remark in the family register of a naturalized person which cites the date and other particulars of the Ministry of Justice certificate of permission to naturalize, the nationality status of a naturalized nation is unmarked. The particulars of naturalization in the family register are functionally no different from the particulars of birth in the registers of nationals who were born into Japanese nationality, or from the particulars of acquisition later in life through, say, parental (paternal or maternal) acknowledgement, or pursuant to transitory measures in revisions of the Nationality Law, such as those that came into effect from 1985 and 2009. See relevant versions of Japan's Nationality Law in the "Nationality" section of this website for details.

Nationality conflicts

Alanis et al. continue in this vein as they describe other features of the citizenship articles in Uruguay's constitution, including the stipulations in Article 81, the last Article of Section III, that Uruguayan nationality -- i.e., the nationality of a "natural citizen" -- cannot be lost, even if the natural citizen naturalizes in another country, while alien citizens will lose their "legal citizenship" if they naturalize into the citizenship of another state.

In other words, Uruguay tolerates "dual nationality" among its "native" (natural) citizens, but does not tolerate "dual citizenship" among its "alien" (legal) citizens.

The inability of natural citizens of Uruguay to renounce their nationality has created problems for those would like to naturalize in a state that requires renunciation of other nationalities as a condition for naturalization -- such as in the United States or Japan, each of which makes different provisions for minimizing dual nationality.

Uruguay is not the only country that regards their natural (birthright) nationality as never lost. The Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua -- all essentially jus soli American states like Uruguay -- also regard their nationality as permanent. Argentina, Brazil, and Cuba are among a number of other countries that make it extremely difficult to renounce their nationality.

The United States permits renunciation but the procedure is bureaucratically traumatic and expensive. The United States permits an alternative form of divestment called "relinquishment", which is not quite as permanent as "renunciation" but nonetheless results in loss of citizenship and invalidation of one's US passport.

Japan generally allows Uruguayans and other such aliens to naturalize, tacitly accepting the constraints imposed by their original country of nationality on renunciation.

Japan in many ways has been more tolerant of dual nationality than the United States, not only in cases of naturalization, but at time of birth. Japan's provisions for renunciation are a direct result of pressure from the United States in 1916 to enable American citizens with Japanese nationality to renounce their Japanese status.

Provisions for "nationality choice" introduced in Japan's 1950 Nationality Law from 1985 originate from the pressure the United States brought to bear on Japan the early 1920s, which resulted in 1924 provisions for reserving rights to birthright Japanese nationality among the offspring born to Japanese parents living in designated jus soli states, including Argentina (亜爾然丁国), Brazil (伯剌西爾国), Canada (加奈陀), Chile (智利国), and Peru (秘露国). Mexico was added to the list in 1926 by another imperial ordinance (No. 16 of 1926). I would guess that Uruguay was not listed because it wouldn't have objected to dual nationality among Uruguayan-born offspring of Japanese. See 1899 Nationality Law for the texts and discussions of the 1916 and 1924 revisions to the 1899 Nationality Law.

The United States also induced Uruguay, among a number of other American states, to sign naturalization conventions aimed especially at eliminating dual nationality (see next).


1908 Naturalization Convention Between the United States and Uruguay

From the middle of the 19th century, the United States began to conclude naturalization treaties with European states. These treaties, initiated mainly by the United States, recognized the rights of the subjects, nationals, and citizens of one party state to naturalize in the other state, and included provisions for preventing dual nationality.

By the late 19th century, the United States was also becoming concerning about the amount of immigration of Orientals, especially Chinese, who faced considerable animosity in California, where sizable communities of Chinese immigrants had formed since the Gold Rush and the building of the transcontinental railroad. And in 1882, for purely racist reasons, Congress enacted the so-called Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned most Chinese immigration. The act was renewed in 1892, made permanent in 1902, and would not be repealed until 1943, during World War II, when the United States and China were allies in a common war against Japan.

By the early 1900s, the United States was shifting its concern about naturalization and dual nationality to neighboring American hemisphere states that had more tolerant attitudes toward nationality and citizenship. including Uruguay. And America's anti-Oriental sentiments had shifted to Japanese, who had replaced Chinese, again especially in California, as the "race to hate" in the eyes of white Americans who, even if not supremacists, feared a "Yellow Peril" of the kind that had become the theme of popular English fiction.

Naturalization treaties between the United States and other states

Between 1868 and 1911, the United States signed at least 12 naturalization treaties with other states.

  1. 1868 Naturalization convention with North German Confederation
    1. First recognition by a European entity, consisting of 22 member states,
      of the legal right of its (or their) subjects to become American citizens
  2. 1868 Naturalization convention with Belgium
  3. 1869 Naturalization convention with Sweden and Norway
  4. 1870 Naturalization convention with United Kingdom
  5. 1872 Naturalization convention with Denmark
  6. 1902 Naturalization convention with Haiti
  7. 1907-1908 Gentlemen's Agreement with the Empire of Japan
    1. Informal non-binding acceptance by Japan of American demands
      to limit migration from Japan to California and other states
      or face formal restrictions like the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act
  8. 1907 Naturalization convention with Peru
  9. 1908 Naturalization convention with Portugal
  10. 1908 Naturalization convention with El Salvador
  11. 1908 Naturalization convention with Honduras
  12. 1908 Naturalization convention with Nicaragua
  13. 1908 Naturalization convention with Uruguay
  14. 1911 Naturalization convention with Costa Rica

In 1908, the United States signed three practically identical naturalization treaties with El Salvador on 14 March 1908, Honduras on 23 June 1908, and Uruguay on 10 August 1908. The treaties differ only slightly and insubstantially in their wording.

1908 naturalization treaty with Uruguay

The Naturalization Convention Between the United States and Uruguay -- after its signing in Montevideo, Uruguay, on 10 August 1908 by representatives of the presidents of the two states -- went through the usual legislative gauntlet in the United States.

10 August 1908     Signed at Montevideo
10 December 1908   Ratification advised by the Senate
26 December 1908   Ratified by the President
14 May 1909        Ratified by Uruguay
14 May 1909        Ratifications ea~changed at Montevideo
19 June 1909       Proclaimed

The following Spanish and English text of the treaty are slightly reformatted adaptations of versions published in The American Journal of International Law (Volume 3, 1909, Official Documents, pages 284-285), and in Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States with the annual message of the president transmitted to Congress December 7, 1909 (United States Department of State, Washington. D.C., Paraguay and Uruguay, pages 606-607).

Naturalization Convention Between the United States and Uruguay

[ Signed 10 August 1909, effective from 19 June 1909 ]

The President of the United States of America and the President of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, desiring to regulate the citizenship of those persons who emigrate from the United States to Uruguay, or from Uruguay to the United States, have resolved to conclude a convention on this subject and for that purpose have appointed their plenipotentiaries, to wit:

The President of the United States: Edward C. O'Brien, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States in Uruguay;

The President of Uruguay: Antonio Bachini, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uruguay;

Who, after the mutual communication of their respective full powers, found in good and due form, have agreed upon the following articles:

Article I.

Citizens of the United States who may be or shall have been naturalized in the republic of Uruguay upon their own application or by their own consent, will be considered by the United States as citizens of the republic of Uruguay. Reciprocally, Uruguayans who may be or shall have been naturalized in the United States, upon their own application or by their own consent, will be considered by the republic of Uruguay as citizens of the United States.

Article II.

If a Uruguayan, naturalized in the United States, renews his residence in Uruguay, without intent to return to the United States, he may be held to have renounced his naturalization in the United States.

Reciprocally, if an American, naturalized in Uruguay, renews his residence in the United States, without intent to return to Uruguay, he may be held to have renounced his naturalization in Uruguay.

The intent not to return may be held to exist when the person naturalized in one country resides more than two years in the other country, but this presumption may be destroyed by evidence to the contrary.

Article III.

It is mutually agreed that the definition of the word citizen as used in this convention, shall be held to mean a person to whom nationality of the United States or Uruguay attaches.

Article IV.

A recognized citizen of the one party, returning to the territory of the other, remains liable to trial and legal punishment for an action punishable by the laws of his original country and committed before his emigration, but not for the emigration itself, saving always the limitation established by the laws of his original country, or any other remission of liability tb punishment.

Article V.

The declaration of an intention to become a citizen of the one or the other country has not for either party the effect of citizenship legally acquired.

Article VI.

The present convention shall remain in force for ten years from the date of the exchange of ratifications; and unless one of the contracting parties shall notify the other of its intention to terminate it one year before the expiration of that period, the said treaty shall continue in force from year to year until the expiration of one year after official notice shall have been given by either of the contracting governments of a purpose to terminate it.

Article VII.

The present treaty shall be submitted to the approval and ratification of the respective appropriate authorities of each of the contracting parties, and the ratifications shall be exchanged at Montevideo as soon as possible.

In witness whereof, the respective plenipotentiaries have signed the foregoing articles, and have affixed their seals.

Done in duplicate at the city of Montevideo, in the English and Spanish languages this tenth day of August, one thousand nine hundred and eight.

[seal] Edward C. O'Brien,

[seal] Antonio Bachini.