Integrity Legal

28th Sep 2009

United States Immigration law offers many long term benefits for the spouses and fiancees of American Citizens. One of the many questions posed by those American’s researching US Immigration from Thailand is: how does my Thai fiancee acquire United States Citizenship?

There are many misconceptions about who can naturalize as a US citizen and under what circumstances. As a rule, naturalization to US citizenship takes approximately five years, if the applicant is already in lawful permanent resident status. However, for the husband or wife of a United States Citizen, the amount of time necessary to naturalize is greatly reduced. In order for the spouse of an American citizen to naturalize, the spouse must have been in lawful permanent residence for 3 years prior to the application for naturalization. Further, the husband or wife who meets this criterion must also have been physically present in the United States for an aggregate of 18 months prior to application. For United States Immigration and naturalization purposes, half-days in the US are counted as full days when determining physical presence in the United States of America.

For those bringing a Thai fiancee into the United States on a K1 visa, the clock does not begin ticking toward naturalization until the Thai applicant successfully is approved for adjustment of status. The date noted on the adjustment of status approval is the date from which one can begin accruing presence toward ultimate naturalization. In the case of the K3 visa, even though it is a marriage visa, time in the USA does not accrue towards Citizenship until after approval of an adjustment of status application or the applicant returns to the US Embassy for processing of the underlying IR1 or CR1 visa application.

It should be noted, much like the lift of conditionality, one can, and perhaps ought to, file for naturalization ninety days before the applicant hits the three year mark for time in the US in lawful permanent residence.

There are some exceptions to the 3 years plus 18 months aggregate presence requirement. Most notable is the fact that in certain situations, a permanent resident can acquire citizenship after only one year in lawful permanent resident status if they are accompanying a United States Citizen abroad in order to work in a job related to the United States Military, Government, or other government related endeavor.

If a couple makes plans ahead of time, it may be possible for a Thai fiancee or spouse to acquire United States Citizenship in an efficient and timely manner. That being said, for those seeking US Citizenship, the road can be difficult as naturalization requires a great deal of time and effort on the part of the foreign applicant as well as an investment of resources on the part of the US Citizen spouse.

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