HomeTimeline of Chinese Immigration to the U.S.

Timeline of Chinese Immigration to the U.S.

1785           Three Chinese seamen arrive in the continental United States aboard the ship Pallas in Baltimore, MD.

1790           The Naturalization Act of 1790 restricts citizenship to “free white persons” of “good moral character.” The law would be enforced until 1952. In effect the Nation is divided between White and racial minority populations, each of whom would be accorded different and unequal rights and treatment. Racial minorities would be limited in their citizenship, voting, residency, jury, property, and family rights. Asian Americans, including Chinese Americans, would be directly affected by this legislation until it was rescinded by the passage of the Walter-McCarran Act of 1952.

1830           The first U.S. Census notation of Chinese in America records three Chinese living in the United States.

1830s           Chinese sailors and peddlers visit New York.

1844           United States and China sign treaty of "peace, amity, and commerce."

1847           Yung Wing and two other Chinese students arrive in US for schooling.

1848           Gold is discovered in California and a gold rush begins.

1850           Chinese American population in U.S. is about 4,000 out of a population of 23.2 million. Chinese in California form associations for mutual protection.

1854           The California Supreme Court decision, People v. Hall, rules that Chinese cannot testify in court.

1858           California legally prohibits Chinese and “Mongolian” immigration.

1860           Chinese American population in US is 34,933 out of a total population of 31.4 million.

1862           The United States prohibits the importation of Chinese “coolies” on American vessels.

1865           Central Pacific recruits Chinese workers to build a transcontinental railroad.

1868           The United States and China ratify the Burlingame-Seward Treaty, which sanctions mutual emigration between the two countries.

1869           The first transcontinental railroad is completed with significant Chinese immigrant labor.

1870           Chinese American population in US is 63,199 out of a total population of 38.5 million.

1870           Congress approves the Naturalization Act, barring Chinese from obtaining U.S. citizenship. The Act also prevents immigration of Chinese women who have marital partners in the United States. Chinese and Japanese men must show evidence in support of a woman’s moralcharacter in the case of prospective and actual wives of Chinese and Japanese descent.

1871           Anti-Chinese violence erupts in Los Angeles and other cities. Such violence continues throughout the decade. 

1875           Congress passes the Page Law, which bars Chinese, Japanese, and “Mongolian” prostitutes, felons, and contract laborer immigration.

1878           A federal district court in California rules Chinese ineligible for naturalized citizenship.

1880           The United States and China sign a treaty that allows the United States to limit Chinese immigration.

1882           Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which halts Chinese laborer immigration for 10 years and denies Chinese from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens.

1886           The U.S. Supreme Court decision, Yick Wo v. Hopkins, rules that laws that are enforced with racial discrimination violates the 14th Amendment.

1888           The Scott Act declares over 20,000 Chinese laborers’ re-entry permits null and void.

1889           The U.S. Supreme Court decision, Chae Chan Ping v. United States, upholds Chinese Exclusion laws’ constitutionality.

1890           Chinese American population in U.S. is 107,488 out of a total population of 62.9 million.

1892           The Geary Act extends the Chinese Exclusion Act for another 10 years and requires all Chinese residents to carry permits.

1893           In Fong Yue Ting v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that Congress has the power to expel the Chinese.

1894           Sun Yat Sen, founder of modern China and political activist, helps bring down the Qing dynasty. He establishes home-base operations for the liberation of China among ChineseAmerican communities in Hawaii, San Francisco, and in New York.

1898           The U.S. Supreme Court admits Wong Kim Ark, a Chinese American born and raised in the United States, back into the United States. Ark was initially denied entry due to the Chinese Exclusion Act. The case rules that U.S.-born Chinese cannot be divested of their citizenship.

1904           Congress makes the Chinese Exclusion acts indefinite. Law enforcement officials arrest 250 allegedly illegal Chinese immigrants without search warrants.

1905           California’s Civil Code forbids intermarriage between Whites and “Mongolians.”

1906           Earthquake destroys all records in San Francisco, including immigration records. This opens the opportunity for a new surge of Chinese immigrants. These “paper sons” could now claim with the loss of official records that they were U.S. citizens and had the right to bring family members to America. The U.S. government creates the Bureau of Immigration.

1910           Chinese American population in U.S. is 94,414 out of a total population of 92.2 million. Angel Island Immigration Station opens to process potential Asian immigrants.

1917           The Immigration Act of 1917 restricts immigration of Asian persons and denies entry of natives from the “barred zone.”

1918           World War I Asian veterans receive right of naturalization.

1924           The Asian Exclusion Act, which is part of the Immigration Act of 1924, excludes all Asian laborer immigrants from entering into the United States. The U.S. Border Patrol is created, as an agency under the Department of Labor, to regulate Chinese immigration to the United States across the U.S.-Mexico border.

1925           Chinese wives of American citizens are denied entry.

1929           Annual immigration quotas are declared permanent.

1930           Chinese American population in U.S. is 102,159 out of a total population of 123.2 million. 

1932           Anna May Wong, at the height of her career, stars with Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express.

1941           The United States declares war after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. China is now an ally of the United States. 

1943           Congress repeals all Chinese exclusion laws, grants Chinese the right to become naturalized citizens, and allows 105 Chinese to immigrate to the US each year. China and the United States become World War II allies against Japan. The U.S. Army drafts over 20 percent of Chinese men living in the United States.

1945           World War II ends with atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

1947           Due to the 1945 War Brides Act of 1945, permitting immigration of foreign wives, husbands, fiancés, and children of U.S. Army personnel, 6,000 Chinese women enter into the United States as wives of Chinese American servicemen.

1949           The United States grants refugee status to 5,000 highly educated Chinese after China launches a Communist government. This Central Intelligence Agency Act (CIA Act) encourages Chinese scientists, engineers, and physicists to enter into the United States in furtherance of U.S. national security interests.

1950           Chinese American population in U.S. is 150,005 out of 151,325,798.

1952           The Walter-McCarran Immigration and Naturalization Act revokes the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924. A small number of Asians are also allowed to immigrate to the United States and are given citizenship status. 

1953           The Refugee Relief Act offers unlimited immigrant visas to Chinese refugees.

1959           The U.S. government implements the eight-year “Confession Program” to encourage illegal Chinese immigrants to reveal identities of illegal residents.

1962           The Kennedy Emergency Immigration Act (KEIA Act) permits 5,000 Chinese immigrants to enter the United States during the period of China’s “Great Leap Forward” movement.

1965           A new immigration act effectively removes racial bias from America's immigration laws.

1968           San Francisco State College and the University of California at Berkeley students successfully strike for more minority studies programs. The demonstration leads to the historic School of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State College and the creation of Black Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. In following years, Asian American Studies, Chicano Studies, Native American Studies, and comparative Ethnic Studies programs start at U.C. Berkeley and University of California at Los Angeles. These programs address the immigration history and ethnic experiences of Asian Americans and Chinese Americans.

1970           Chinese American population of the U.S. is 237,292 out of 179,323,175

1976           American physicist Samuel Ting wins the Nobel Prize in Physics 

1982           Vincent Chin, a Chinese American, is killed by two white Americans. Chin's killers are sentenced only to probation and a fine of $3,000 plus court fees.

1982           Maya Lin's design selected for the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial.

1987           TIME Magazine publishes a cover article entitled "The New Whiz Kids". Many Chinese Americans express a concern about a "model minority" stereotype. 

1990           Chinese American population of the U.S. is 1,645,472 out of 248,709,873.

1996           Dr. David Ho is named TIME Magazine's Man of the Year for his research into HIV/Aids.

2000           Chinese American population of the U.S. is 2,879,636 out of 281,421,904.