319(b) Naturalization for Spouses of U.S. Citizens Working Abroad
U.S. Immigration Law provides for what is called “Expeditious Naturalization" for some spouses of U.S. citizens who are working overseas. In this case “expeditious" means that the spouse of a qualifying U.S. citizen does not have to live inside the United States for any particular period of time, as long as they have been granted Lawful Permanent Residence (a green card) at some point. This can be a very useful benefit, helping keep families together and facilitating travel, relocation and eventual re-integration into the U.S. after the conclusion of the overseas assignment.
To qualify for expedited naturalization, the foreign spouse must:
· Be a lawful permanent resident (green card holder)
· Be able to meet all of the standard requirements for Naturalization except for residence or physical presence
· Be married to a U.S. citizen, and living together in “marital union"
· Be prepared to come to the U.S. for the Naturalization interview and swearing-in
· Be committed to returning to your spouse’s overseas location within 45 days of the naturalization, and
· Be committed to returning to the U.S. to reside after the U.S. spouse’s overseas assignment is completed.
The U.S. citizen spouse must be “regularly stationed abroad" as:
· A U.S. government employee, including U.S. military, or
· An employee of a U.S. institution of research, or
· An employee of an American company engaged in foreign trade or commerce, or
· An employee of a Public International Organization in which the U.S. is a participating state, or
· A minister, priest or missionary working in a bona fide religious organization.
Note that the citizenship applicant must be inside the United States for the interview and swearing-in ceremony. This typically involves specifying in the application process which USCIS District Office you wish to handle the case, and then coordinating the timing so that a stateside visit can be arranged for the time of the interview. Only a few USCIS District Offices offer same-day swearing-in ceremonies, so the choice of location is important for logistical reasons. In addition, because the 319(b) process is somewhat uncommon, some offices may not be experienced in the procedure.
Historically, the immigration service would channel 319(b) applications by region, with the Honolulu, Hawaii District Office handling applications from the Asia-Pacific, Newark, New Jersey for Europe and Africa, and San Juan, Puerto Rico for Latin America. 319(b) applications from Foreign Service Officers and other Department of State employees are channeled to the Fairfax, Virginia District Office. Other locations may be equally good, but these District Offices still maintain trained officers and coordination capabilities to efficiently process a 319(b) application.