Integrity Legal

20th Jun 2009

A question sometimes posed with regard to US Immigration from Thailand involves the possibility of a Thai fiancee or spouse eventually acquiring United States Citizenship by naturalization. Even in a case in which the couple in question is seeking a K-1 visa or a K-3 Visa (which are both non-immigrant visas) there still seems to be an underlying belief that eventually the immigrant fiancee or spouse will one day wish to acquire United States citizenship.

Many people wonder about the time and residency requirements for naturalization. In many cases the ability to read, speak, and write in the English language is a requirement and a general knowledge of the history and government of the United States is also mandatory.

As to the residency requirement, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) stipulates that one must have been lawfully admitted to permanent residence in the United States in order to subsequently apply for citizenship. The USCIS website goes further and states:

“Lawfully admitted for permanent residence means having been legally accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States as an immigrant in accordance with the immigration laws. Individuals who have been lawfully admitted as permanent residents will be asked to produce an I-551, Alien Registration Receipt Card, as proof of their status.”

To quote further from the USCIS website, in order to Naturalize as a United States Citizen one must meet the following eligibility requirements set forth under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Basically, the applicant must:

  1. have resided continuously as a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. for at least 5 years prior to filing with no single absence from the United States of more than one year;
  2. have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the previous five years (absences of more than six months but less than one year shall disrupt the applicant’s continuity of residence unless the applicant can establish that he or she did not abandon his or her residence during such period)
  3. have resided within a state or district for at least three months

Beyond these requirements the applicant must also show that they are of good character. Which is best indicated by an absence of criminal record. In cases where a child of an American Citizen is not eligible to acquire US citizenship at birth, naturalization technically occurs automatically upon the child’s entry into the United States on an Immigrant Visa.

Please note: that where the applicant for naturalization gained lawful permanent residence due to marriage to a United States Citizen, the time requirement for naturalization is 3 years of permanent residence and 18 months physical presence in the United States.

(This post is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be used as substantive legal advice. For more information please contact a licensed attorney. This post does not create a lawyer-client relationship between the person writing this post and those later reading it.)

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