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U.S. President Joe Biden is taking sweeping steps in an election year to offer relief to hundreds of thousands of immigrants who potentially lack legal status in the United States, seeking to counterbalance his own aggressive actions on the southern border that infuriated advocates and many Democratic lawmakers earlier this month, the AP reported.

The White House announced Tuesday that the Biden administration will allow some spouses of U.S. citizens without legal status to apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship in the coming months. The move could affect more than half a million immigrants, according to senior administration officials.

To qualify for citizenship, an immigrant must have lived in the United States for 10 years as of Monday and be married to a U.S. citizen.

If the application to become a qualified immigrant is approved, he or she will have three years to apply for a green card and temporary work authorization and, in the meantime, be protected from deportation.

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