ALIEN (Lat. alienus), the technical term applied by British constitutional law to anyone who does not enjoy the character of a British subject; in general, a foreigner who for the purposes of any state comes into certain domestic relations with it, other than those applying to native-born or naturalized citizens, but owns allegiance to a foreign sovereign.
English law, save with the special exceptions mentioned, admits to the character of subjects all who are born within the king's allegiance, that is, speaking generally, within the British dominions. In the celebrated question of the post-nati in the reign of James I. of England, it was found, after solemn trial, that natives of Scotland born before the union of the crowns were aliens in England, but that, since allegiance is to the person of the king, those born subsequently were English subjects. A child born abroad, whose father or whose grandfather on the father's side was a British subject, may claim the same character unless at the time of his birth his father was an attainted traitor, or in the service of a state engaged in war against the British empire (4th Geo. II. c. 21). Owing to this exceptional provision some sons of Jacobite refugees born abroad, who joined in the rebellion of 1745, were admitted to the privilege of prisoners of war.
It has been enacted in the United Kingdom with regard to the national status of women and children that a married woman is to be deemed a subject of the state of which her husband is for the time being a subject; that a natural-born British woman, having become an alien by marriage, and thereafter being a widow, may be rehabilitated under conditions slightly more favourable than are required for naturalization; that where a father or a widow becomes an alien, the children in infancy becoming resident in the country where the parent is naturalized, and being naturalized by the local law, are held to be subjects of that country; that those of a father or of a widow readmitted to British nationality or who obtains a certificate of naturalization, becoming during infancy resident with such parent in the British dominions in the former case or in the United Kingdom in the latter, become readmitted or naturalized (Naturalization Act 1870, s. 10). The nationality of children not covered by these enactments is not affected by the change of their parents' nationality. The same statute provides that a declaration of alienage before a justice of peace or other competent judge, having the effect of divesting the declarant of the character of a British subject, may be made by a naturalized British subject desiring to resume the nationality of the country to which he originally belonged, if there be a convention to that effect with that country; by natural-born subjects who were also born subjects of another state according to its law; or by persons born abroad having British fathers.
Naturalization, which means conferring the character of a subject, may now, under the act of 1870, be obtained by applying to the home secretary and producing evidence of having resided for not less than five years in the United Kingdom, or of having been in the service of the crown for not less than five years, and of intention to reside in the United Kingdom or serve under the crown. Such a certificate may be granted by the secretary of state to one naturalized previously to the passing of the act, or to a British subject as to whose nationality a doubt exists, or to a statutory alien, i.e. one who has become an alien by declaration in pursuance of the act of 1870.
In the United States the separate state laws largely determine the status of an alien, but subject to Federal treaties. (For further particulars see ALLEGIANCE and NATURALIZATION.)
Many of the disabilities to which aliens were subject in the United Kingdom, either by the common law or under various acts of parliament, have been repealed by the Naturalization Act 1870. It enables aliens to take, acquire, hold and dispose of real and personal property of every description, and to transmit a title to it, in all respects as natural-born British subjects. But the act expressly declares that this relaxation of the law does not qualify aliens for any office or any municipal, parliamentary or other franchise, or confer any right of a British subject other than those above expressed in regard to property, nor does it affect interests vested in possession or expectancy under dispositions made before the act, or by devolution of law on the death of any one dying before the act. A ship, any share in which is owned by an alien, shall not be deemed a British ship (Merchant Shipping Act 1894, s. i.) By the Juries Act 1870, s. 8, aliens who have been domiciled for ten years in England or Wales, if in other respects duly qualified, are liable to serve on juries or inquests in England or Wales; and by the Naturalization Act 1870, s. 5, the ahens' old privilege of being tried by a jury de medietate linguae (that is, of which half were foreigners), was abolished.
It seems to be a rule of general public law that an alien can be sent out of the realm by exercise of the crown's prerogative; but in modern English practice, whenever it seems necessary to expel foreigners (see EXPULSION), a special act of parliament has to be obtained for the purpose, unless the case falls within the extradition acts or the Aliens Act 1905. The latter prohibits the landing in the United Kingdom of undesirable alien steerage passengers, called in the act "immigrants," from ships carrying more than twenty alien steerage passengers, called in the act "immigrant ships"; nor can alien immigrants be landed except at certain ports at which there is an "immigrant officer," to whom power of prohibiting the landing is given, subject to a right of appeal to the immigration board of the port. The act contains a number of qualifications, and among these empowers the secretary of state to exempt any immigrant ship from its provisions if he is satisfied that a proper system is maintained to prevent the immigration of undesirable persons. The principal test of undesirableness is not having or being in a position to obtain the means of supporting one's self and one's dependents, or appearing likely from disease or infirmity to become a charge on the rates, provided that the immigrant is not seeking to avoid prosecution or punishment on religious or political grounds, or persecution, involving danger of imprisonment or danger to life or limb, on account of religious belief. Lunatics, idiots, persons who from disease or infirmity appear likely to become a detriment to the public otherwise than through the rates, and persons sentenced in a foreign country for crimes for which they could be surrendered to that country, are also enumerated as undesirable. Power is also given to the secretary of state to expel persons sentenced as just mentioned, or, if recommended by the court in which they have been convicted, persons convicted of felony or some offence for which the court has power to impose imprisonment without the option of a fine, or of certain offences against the police laws; and persons in receipt of any such parochial relief as disqualifies for the parliamentary franchise, or wandering without ostensible mean of subsistence, or living under insanitary conditions due to overcrowding. (JNO. W.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)