A spouse of a U.S. citizen must meet certain requirements in order to be eligible for naturalization, including residing in the U.S. for at least three years, be physically present for half of that time, and not be abroad for more than six months at a time. The exception to these requirements is Section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Section 319(b) allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen to apply for citizenship expeditiously if the citizen spouse is “regularly stationed abroad” in a qualifying overseas employment. “Regularly stationed abroad” does not necessarily mean permanent assignment on the part of the citizen spouse. However, the assignment cannot be short and/or casual. In addition, the citizen spouse is allowed to be in the U.S. during his/her spouse’s expedited naturalization as long as the citizen spouse is departing abroad not less than a year from then.
The provision of expedited naturalization accelerates the process for the non-citizen spouses because it waives the residence and physical presence requirements. This means that the non-citizen spouse does not need to reside in the U.S. continuously for three years. However, the non-citizen spouse must be a lawful permanent resident (LPR) during the time of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Form N-400 can also be filed overseas with the Service Center and the Service Center will schedule the biometrics at the appropriate U.S. consulate overseas. However, the non-citizen spouse must travel back to the U.S. for the interview and provide supporting evidence of his/her relationship with the citizen spouse.
In addition to these requirements, the non-citizen spouse at the time of filing:
- Must be a spouse of the U.S. citizen up until the time he/she takes the Oath of Allegiance;
- Show intent to reside abroad with his/her U.S. citizen spouse within 30 to 45 days after naturalization;
- Show intent to reside in the U.S. after the U.S. citizen spouse’s employment abroad ends;
- Meet other basis requirements for naturalization like understand basic English (e.g. read, write, and speak); and
- Be of good moral character, among other criteria;
Applying for expedited naturalization is complicated and at times can be a time-consuming process, especially for those whose naturalization interview will occur any time after the 90-day window opens to file a petition to remove the conditions of residence. Such applicants are encouraged to file the petition for removal of conditions of residence as soon as possible to avoid delays in naturalization since USCIS will adjudicate the naturalization application in conjunction with the petition for removal of conditions. Failing to file petition for removal of conditions will lead to the applicant losing his/her LPR status without which an applicant is not eligible for naturalization.
Feel free to contact our team to learn more about obtaining citizenship through this provision, including learning more about what the qualifying employment is and the complete criteria for eligibility to apply for expedited naturalization.