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Chapter 1: Purpose and Background


A. Purpose


Spouses of United States citizens may be eligible for naturalization on the basis of their marriage under special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), to include overseas processing. In general, spouses of U.S. citizens are required to meet the general naturalization requirements.[1] See INA 316. See 8 CFR 316. See Part D, General Naturalization Requirements [12 USCIS-PM D]. The special provisions, however, provide modifications to those requirements.


The spouse of a U.S. citizen may naturalize through various provisions:







In addition, spouses, former spouses, or intended spouses of U.S. citizens may naturalize if they obtained LPR status on the basis of having been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by their citizen spouse.[7] See INA 319(a). See Chapter 3, Spouses of U.S. Citizens Residing in the United States [12 USCIS-PM G.3].


B. Background


The current naturalization provisions for spouses of U.S. citizens reflect legislation dating back to 1922. Congress considered it inefficient and undesirable to require the spouse of a U.S. citizen to wait five years before naturalization.[8] See H.R. REP. 67-1110, 2d Sess., p. 2. See Immigration Act of September 22, 1922. Congress made further amendments in 1934, to include a required period of three years of residence. In 1940, Congress incorporated provisions into the Nationality Act of 1940 that were substantially similar to those of the 1922 and 1934 acts. Today’s statutes reflect Congress’ long-standing aim to facilitate the naturalization process for spouses of U.S. citizens to provide spouses with the protections afforded by U.S. citizenship.


C. Table of General Provisions


The table below serves as a quick reference guide to the pertinent naturalization authorities for spouses of U.S. citizens. The chapters that follow the table provide further guidance.


General Provisions for Applicants filing as Spouses of U.S. Citizens

Provision

Marriage and Marital Union

Continuous

Residence

Physical

Presence

Eligibility for Overseas Processing

Spouses of U.S. Citizens Residing in United States

INA 319(a)

Married and living in marital union for at least 3 years prior to filing

3 years after becoming an LPR

18 months during period of residence

Not applicable, except for spouses of military members who may complete entire process from abroad – INA 319(e) 


Spouses of U.S. Citizens Employed Abroad

INA 319(b) 


Married prior to filing

Must be LPR at filing; no specified period required

Not applicable; all must be in U.S. for interview and Oath


Spouses of Deceased Service Members

INA 319(d)

Must have been married and living in marital union at time of death

Must be LPR at filing; no specified period required

Not applicable; all must be in U.S. for interview and Oath 


D. Legal Authorities






Footnotes


1. [^] 

 See INA 316. See 8 CFR 316. See Part D, General Naturalization Requirements [12 USCIS-PM D].

2. [^] 

 See INA 316(a). See Part D, General Naturalization Requirements [12 USCIS-PM D].

3. [^] 

 See INA 319(a). See Chapter 3, Spouses of U.S. Citizens Residing in the United States [12 USCIS-PM G.3].

4. [^] 

 See INA 319(b). See Chapter 4, Spouses of U.S. Citizens Employed Abroad [12 USCIS-PM G.4].

5. [^] 

 See INA 316(a)INA 319(a), and INA 319(e). See 8 U.S.C. 1443a. See Part I, Military Members and their Families [12 USCIS-PM I].

6. [^] 

 See INA 319(d). See Part I, Military Members and their Families, Chapter 9, Spouses, Children, and Surviving Family Benefits, Section B, Spouses of Military Members [12 USCIS-PM I.9(B)].

7. [^] 

 See INA 319(a). See Chapter 3, Spouses of U.S. Citizens Residing in the United States [12 USCIS-PM G.3].

8. [^] 

 See H.R. REP. 67-1110, 2d Sess., p. 2. See Immigration Act of September 22, 1922.



Resources


Legal Authorities
INA 319, 8 CFR 319 - Spouses of U.S. citizens


Updates


Date Details
January 7, 2013
POLICY ALERT

Comprehensive Citizenship and Naturalization Policy Guidance

​USCIS is issuing updated and comprehensive citizenship and naturalization policy guidance in the new USCIS Policy Manual.

Read more »


Current as of July 1, 2014