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The ABCs of Immigration - Naturalization - Residency Requirements Part II
by Greg Siskind and Amy Ballentine

Last week we discussed the general residency requirements for people seeking naturalization. This week we will cover the requirements for spouses of US citizens and other special classes.

One of the most important benefits spouses of US citizens have with regard to naturalization is that they make seek US citizenship after only three years as a permanent resident, rather than five, as is generally the case. As is the case under the general rule, one half of this time must be spent physically in the US. The couple must have been living in marriage for the entire three years, and the citizen member of the couple must have been a citizen for the entire three year period. Should the couple no longer be living together as husband and wife, the residency requirement for naturalization will revert to the normal five years.

Under section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, spouses of US citizens who are employed abroad also benefit from an expedited naturalization process. The US citizen must be employed by a qualifying organization, which can be:

  • The US government,

  • A recognized US research institution,

  • A US business engaged in foreign trade,

  • An international organization of which the US is a member or participant, or

  • A religious denomination, for the purpose of performing religious work,
The regulations specify that the citizen spouseís employment abroad must be for a period of at least one year, but if this requirement is met, the naturalization application can be filed before the employment abroad begins. Also, there is no minimum required residence in the US, nor a minimum period for which the applicant must have been a permanent resident. The applicant must, however, declare their intention to reside permanently in the US upon the termination of their spouseís foreign employment.

Unfortunately, many INS officials are not familiar with this rule and we have received numerous reports over the years of people who encountered difficulties as a result of INS officials failing to grasp the actual law on this subject.


About The Authors

Gregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Gregory Siskind went on to receive his law degree from the University of Chicago. For the past several years, he has been an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and he currently serves as a member of the organization's Technology Committee. He is the current committee chair for the Nashville Bar Association's International Section. Greg is a member of the American Bar Association where he serves on the LPM PublishGregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

Greg regularly writes on the subject of immigration law. He has written several hundred articles on the subject and is also the author of the new book The J Visa Guidebook, published by Matthew Bender and Company, one of the nation's leading legal publishers. He is working on another book for Matthew Bender on entertainment and sports immigration.

Greg is also, in many ways, a pioneer in the use of the Internet in the legal profession. He was one of the first lawyers in the country (and the very first immigration lawyer) to set up a web site for his practice. And he was the first attorney in the world to distribute a firm newsletter via e-mail listserv. Mr. Siskind is the author of the American Bar Association's best selling book, The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. He has been interviewed and profiled in a number of leading publications and media including USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lawyers Weekly, the ABA Journal, the National Law Journal, American Lawyer, Law Practice Management Magazine, National Public Radio's All Things Considered and the Washington Post. As one of the leading experts in the country on the use of the Internet in a legal practice, Greg speaks regularly at forums across the United States, Canada and Europe.

In his personal life, Greg is the husband of Audrey Siskind and the proud father of Eden Shoshana and Lily Jordana. He also enjoys collecting rare newspapers and running in marathons and triathlons. He can be reached by email at GSiskind@visalaw.com

Amy Ballentine is an associate in Siskind, Susser & Haas's Memphis, Tennessee office. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Rhodes College in 1994. While in law school at the University of Memphis she was a member of the law review staff as well as a published author. She also worked with the local public defenderís office in death penalty cases. In May 1999, she graduated Cum Laude from the University of Memphis Law School. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She can be reached by email at aballentine@visalaw.com


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