The Scott Act was introduced to build on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. It was part of a series of legislation intended to curb and finally ban all immigration to the United States from China.
The original Act banned immigration of laborers from China for ten years (changed from twenty in an earlier version). It allowed those who had already arrived to leave and return to China if they chose (though it was necessary to carry a certificate, proving one's status to reenter). (It also stated that "hereafter no State court or court of the United States shall admit Chinese to citizenship; and all laws in conflict with this act are hereby repealed"). Additions in 1884 strengthened the "certification" situation and made the act applicable to all Chinese, regardless of national origin or citizenship.
That wasn't adequate to take care of the (Chinese) immigration "problem" and the Scott Act was passed in 1888. It voided all certificates and banned any Chinese who left the country from returning (whether prior to its passage or not). This "stranded" an estimated twenty to thirty thousand Chinese who had left and were outside of the United States at the time.
Four years later, the Geary Act extended the ten year period another ten and added a provision for an "internal passport" (left out of the original 1882 act) that would be required by all Chinese residents (lacking one could be grounds for deportation). It also denied Chinese bail in habeas corpus proceedings. The Supreme Court upheld both the Scott and Geary Acts, while the Chinese government denounced both.
The 1882 act was made law in 1902 and in 1904 the conditions were "reenacted, extended, and continued, without modification, limitation, or condition," making the period "indefinite."
Chinese immigration (later extended to other Asians in 1924) remained banned until 1943. Until 1965, a quota of 105 Chinese per year were allowed to immigrate. After 1965, the quota was lifted and grants of citizenship were allowed.
(Sources: see Chinese Immigration and the United States, the text from the act can be found at www.itp.berkeley.edu/~asam121)
Scott Act of 1888
Fiftieth Congress. Sess. I.
CHAP. 1064--An act a supplement to an act entitled "An act to execute
certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese," approved the sixth day of
May eighteen hundred and eighty two.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled, That from and after
the passage of this act, it shall be unlawful for any Chinese laborer who
shall at any time heretofore have been, or who may now or hereafter be, a
resident within the United States, and who shall have departed, or shall
depart, therefrom, and shall not have returned before the passage of this
act, to return to, or remain in, the United States.
Sec. 2. That no certificates of identity provided for in the
fourth and fifth sections of the act to which this is a supplement shall
hereafter be issued; and every certificate heretofore issued in pursuance
thereof, is hereby declared void and of no effect, and the Chinese laborer
claiming admission by virtue thereof shall not be permitted to enter the
Sec. 3. That all the duties prescribed, liabilities, penalties and
forfeitures imposed, and the powers conferred by the second, tenth,
eleventh, and twelfth, sections of the act to which this is a supplement
are hereby extended and made applicable to the provisions of this act.
Sec. 4. That all such part or parts of the act to which this is a
supplement as are inconsistent herewith are hereby repealed.
Approved, October 1, 1888.