When a foreign-born individual marries a U.S. citizen, they may take a path to U.S. citizenship through naturalization. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the United States has welcomed 7.6 million naturalized citizens over the last decade. Benefits of naturalization include voting rights, deportation protection, access to government jobs, and freedom to travel.
The naturalization process grants foreign-born spouses the same rights and responsibilities as those born in the U.S. Before foreign-born spouses can apply for naturalization, they must meet certain eligibility criteria.
Typically, foreign-born spouses must be permanent residents (green card holders) for at least three years before applying for naturalization. To be eligible for early naturalization, they must also physically live with their U.S. spouse at the time of naturalization.
The foreign-born individual’s marriage to a U.S. citizen must remain valid throughout the naturalization process. The applicant’s U.S. citizen spouse may be required to attend the naturalization interview as well.
Good moral character
Applicants must demonstrate good moral character. This means avoiding serious criminal activities and adhering to the law during the entire statutory period before the application (i.e., three years for early naturalization). Good moral character must continue through the entire process until giving the Oath of Allegiance.
Proof of knowledge
Applicants must pass an English language test and a civics test. These assessments measure their knowledge of the U.S. government and history. The current civics exam requires the applicant to answer ten questions out of a bank of 100. They must answer at least six correctly to pass.
Naturalization is a significant step for foreign-born spouses. Understanding the eligibility requirements for naturalization is an important first step for those seeking to become a United States citizen.