Guide to the United States

from the 1916 book of the same name by John Foster Carr

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In this Building the Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, of the United States, Meets.


(1) It is the first duty of gratitude to the land that has welcomed you; that gives you and your family a prosperous living, and the protection of the laws; that educates your children; that grants you all the privileges that belong to its native sons. You cannot honestly neglect this duty.

(2) It is also your duty to become a citizen out of love for your own nation. The foreign nations that are most honored and respected in the United States are precisely those whose emigrants in the greatest number become citizens.

(3) It is a duty to yourself and your family to become a citizen and voter, and help select the men who are to represent you in the government, and see that your rights are respected.

(4) A man counts for nothing in the United States until he becomes a voter. But once a citizen and a voter you receive more considerations, not only from the public, but from police and courts, and all authorities.

(5) Citizens enjoy certain exclusive rights and privileges. As a naturalized citizen you will have the same rights as the native born. You can get better paid employment. You will be eligible for certain government positions, which the citizen can obtain by passing rather elementary examinations. You can be elected to any public office except that of President.

(6) When you are admitted to citizenship, your wife also becomes a citizen, without other formality.

(7) If you travel abroad, as a citizen, you will have the protection of the United States Government against illegal arrest and unjust penalties.

(8) As a citizen you will have greater right to public help for yourself and family in case of need.

(9) In case of death by accident, compensation from the employer in some states is not paid to the families of those who are not citizens, or the sum paid is less; also the right to recover damages is not always granted to the wife and children. And in some stats the alien is under certain restrictions. He may not be able, for instance, to fish, hunt or be a barber. Women, too, who are aliens sometimes are restricted in their work, and may not benefit by the mother's pension law.

Men and women both may become citizens. Learning English will best help you to obtain knowledge of a citizen's full rights and duties, and of the reasons why your new country invites your love and asks you to respect and loyally obey its laws.


Immediately after your arrival in the United States you should go to a Federal court and make your declaration under oath that you intend to become a citizen. You do not need to be able to speak English to do this. Any immigrant over eighteen years of age may at any time make such declaration. In making this declaration you must give the same name as that on your certificate of landing, and you must remember the name of the ship on which you came, and the exact date of your arrival. To obtain the necessary certificate of this declaration of intention ("the first paper") you must pay a court fee of one dollar.

In many cities of the United States there are societies that help immigrants in the formalities necessary to become a citizen. In New York the Educational Alliance at East Broadway and Jefferson Street gives lectures on this subject and supplies all necessary information. And the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society, at 229 East Broadway, gives lectures to newly arrived immigrants on this subject, assists in securing first papers, gives all needed physical help, assisting in filling out blanks and accompanying the applicant to court, when necessary. If you live in another city, and can obtain help in no other way, you may write for advice to any Yiddish paper that is published in the United States.

After five years of continuous residence in the United States, and after at least two years, and not more than seven years, from the granting of your first paper, you may apply to the court for full citizenship. Producing your first paper, you must then prove by the oath of two citizens who know you that you have lived in this country without returning to Europe at least five years, continuously--the last one of which you must have lived in the state in which you made application for citizenship. You must produce a certificate of landing, which is obtained from the immigration officer in charge at the port where you landed. You must give your approval to our form of government and prove by your witnesses that you are a person of good morals and law abiding character. You must give up all claims of duty to the government of your land of origin and take oath to support the Constitution of the United States. You must be able to speak English. You must prove that you are capable of exercising the duties of citizenship. This means that you must be able to explain the organization of the government and know how the laws are made and administered. The chapters on the Government of the United States, and the State Governments in this book contain information sufficient to enable you to answer nearly all questions that judges usually ask on these subjects. Learn these chapters thoroughly. The list of questions and answers that are sold about the streets are misleading and are of little use. To register this application and for the following hearing, the court fee is four dollars.

Ninety days after this, accompanied by two witnesses, you must visit the court again and declare again under oath the truth of all the statements in your application. If you then prove to the satisfaction of the court that you are worthy to become a citizen, you are granted full citizenship papers.

WARNING-- There are no fees or charges of any kind beyond these above mentioned, unless witnesses are required by court order to attend, or depositions are to be taken.


An anarchist or a polygamist cannot become a citizen of the United States.

A foreign sailor, who, after having declared his intention of becoming an American citizen, has served three consecutive years on a United States merchant vessel, has the right to claim full citizenship papers and be admitted by the court upon proof of such three years' service in an American ship.

Any one born in the United States is a citizen, even if his parents were born abroad and never became citizens.

When a court has granted citizenship to a man he is an American citizen in every part of the country. His citizenship papers will everywhere obtain for him his full rights. If he should lose these, he can obtain duplicates from the court which granted them.

Any naturalized citizen who within the five years succeeding that in which he acquired American citizenship returns to his native country and takes up his abode there is no longer considered a citizen and loses all right of citizenship.

The right to vote may be forfeited by the commission of a crime.








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