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What spouses of U.S. citizens should know about naturalization

Marrying a U.S. citizen not only speeds up the process of becoming a lawful permanent resident, but it also makes applying for citizenship a little easier. However, there are still specific requirements for citizenship or naturalization.

Before tackling the N-400 Application for Naturalization, it helps to understand the process. A mistake can be both costly and time-consuming, so it pays to know the basics of naturalization for spouses.

When can I apply for naturalization?

Someone who obtains a green card (permanent resident status) through marriage can generally apply for naturalization once they have been married to a U.S. citizen for three years. Their spouse needs to have been a U.S. citizen for the entirety of those three years.

General requirements for naturalization

U.S. immigration law requires someone seeking naturalization based on marriage to:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have lived in “marital union” with their citizen spouse for at least three years before applying
  • Have continuously resided in the United States during their time as a lawful permanent resident
  • Be able to read, write and speak English
  • Have an understanding of U.S. history and government
  • Be of “good moral character”

An applicant must also be physically present in the U.S. for at least 18 months of the required three-year time frame.

Keep in mind, spouses of those serving in the United States military have other paths to citizenship available. To learn more about options for naturalization after living as a lawful permanent resident, consult with an attorney experienced in family-based immigration.

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