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The naturalization process for spouses of U.S. citizens

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The rules and regulations covering citizenship, immigration and naturalization are established and enforced by the federal government. The same basic rules apply, generally, in Maryland as in other states. With regard to the naturalization process for spouses of citizens, the applicable statute is in the Immigration and Nationality Act, at Section 319(a). United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is tasked with enforcement of immigration rules.

An individual may qualify for naturalization under 319(a) if he or she has been a permanent resident of the U.S. for three years or more and has been married to a U.S. citizen during that time, along with several other requirements. The applicant must be at least 18 years of age, for example, and must have lived within the relevant USCIS district or state for three months or more prior to filing the application.

Section 319(a) also requires that the person applying for naturalization as a spouse has continuously, legally resided within the U.S. for a period of at least three years prior to the date the application is filed. The applicant must also be able to write, speak and read English and have knowledge of U.S. civics.

For the spouse of a U.S. citizen that is employed abroad by the military, government or other qualified employer, Section 319(b) of the INA may be applicable. The requirements of 319(b) do not include a specific period of permanent residence or physical presence in the United States.

In a situation where a Maryland resident is interested in pursuing U.S. citizenship, an attorney may be able to help by navigating the applicable laws and rules or by drafting and filing necessary legal documents. An attorney may be able to offer an opinion about the likelihood of an applicant's success and communicate with USCIS on the client's behalf.

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