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:

The spouse of a U.S. citizen may naturalize under the general naturalization provisions for applicants who have resided in the United States for at least five years after becoming a lawful permanent resident (LPR). [2] See INA 316(a). See Part D, General Naturalization Requirements [12 USCIS-PM D].

The spouse of a U.S. citizen may naturalize after residing in the United States for three years after becoming an LPR, rather than five years as generally required. [3] See INA 319(a). See Chapter 3, Spouses of U.S. Citizens Residing in the United States [12 USCIS-PM G.3].

The spouse of a U.S. citizen employed abroad who is working for the U.S. Government (including the armed forces) or other qualified entity may naturalize in the United States without any required period of residence or physical presence in the United States after becoming an LPR. [4] See INA 319(b). See Chapter 4, Spouses of U.S. Citizens Employed Abroad [12 USCIS-PM G.4].

The spouse of a U.S. citizen who is serving abroad in the U.S. armed forces may naturalize abroad while residing with his or her spouse, and time spent abroad under these circumstances is considered residence and physical presence in the United States for purposes of the general five-year or three-year provision for spouses. [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].

The surviving spouse of a U.S. citizen who dies during a period of honorable service in an active-duty status in the U.S. armed forces or was granted citizenship posthumously may naturalize in the United States without any required period of residence or physical presence after becoming an LPR. [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)].

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

INA 316; 8 CFR 316 – General requirements for naturalization

INA 319; 8 CFR 319 – Spouses of U.S. citizens

INA 319(e); 8 CFR 316.5(b)(6) and 8 CFR 316.6 – Residence, physical presence, and overseas naturalization for certain spouses of military personnel

8 U.S.C. 1443a – Overseas naturalization for service members and their family

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.