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What about those who marry U.S. citizens employed abroad?

Given that love knows no borders, it is not uncommon to hear of cases where American citizens relocate to a foreign country and end up marrying a local resident. If that describes your situation, then you rightly may be wondering how your immigration status may be viewed when your spouse chooses to return to Louisville. If your shared intention is to make the United States your permanent home, how long then must you wait until you can become a naturalized citizen? 

Typically, those who marry American citizens must reside in the U.S. as a green card holder for three years (having been married to their spouse for that entire time) before seeking citizenship. However, where you married one who was employed abroad, the regulations are somewhat different. Per Section 319(b) of The Immigration and Naturalization Act, you do not have to meet that same time requirement provided that your spouse's work was with a qualified employer. In this case, a "qualified employer" includes: 

  • Any agency of the U.S. government
  • Any branch of the U.S. military 
  • An American research institution 
  • An American company engaged in the development of U.S. foreign trade or commerce
  • A public international organization which the U.S. participates in by treaty or statute 
  • A religious organization having bona fide organization in the U.S. (for which your spouse performs ministerial, priestly or missionary work)

Your spouse must also be regularly stationed in your country of origin for you to qualify for accelerated naturalization. 

The final requirement for you to qualify for naturalization under this statute is for you to show an intention to permanently reside in the U.S. upon the termination of your spouse's employment abroad. You must be in the U.S. both at the time of your examination for naturalization and at the time of your naturalization. 

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