In Aug. 2018, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service released updated guidance that people who apply for spousal visas must remain married and living together until they take the Oath of Naturalization. Previously, people were required to remain living together until the date that they applied for naturalization. Now, if people terminate their marriages before they take the oath, they will not be eligible for naturalization.
Requirements for Naturalization of Spouses
Spouses of U.S. citizens must meet several criteria to be eligible for naturalization as U.S. citizens. They must have had their green cards and have remained married to their U.S. citizen spouses for a minimum of three years before they submit their applications for naturalization. In addition to the marriage requirement, they must have also remained living with their U.S. citizen spouses. The applicants must also be a minimum of 18 years old and have lived in the jurisdiction in which they file their applications for at least three months before they apply. They must have also been residents of the U.S. as permanent residents continuously for at least three years prior to applying and have been physically present in the U.S. for a minimum of 18 months before the dates of their applications.
In the past, people could take the Oath of Naturalization as long as they remained married and living together as of the date of their applications. However, the new policy guidance states that they will now be ineligible for naturalization based on their marriages if their marriages end between the time that they apply for naturalization and when they take their oaths.
What This Means for Spouses
People who are spouses of U.S. citizens and who intend to seek status as naturalized citizens based on their marriages should continue living with their citizen spouses at least until the time they take the Oath of Naturalization. They should avoid getting divorced after they apply for naturalization until they have been naturalized. People who decide to end their marriages before they have taken their oaths may be declared to be ineligible for naturalization.
Citizens who are married to foreign national spouses who wish to become naturalized citizens may want to be aware of this change. If they divorce their spouses before they are naturalized, their spouses may not be able to gain citizenship status.