Author: Citizenship Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova
There are different ways one may obtain a U.S. citizenship: through birth in the U.S. or its territories; acquire U.S. citizenship automatically through parents or obtain it through naturalization process.
The naturalization process covers those who first receive permanent resident status or a green card and maintain this status for a number of years, typically three if the status was received due a marriage to a U.S. citizen, or five: if the status was received through other ways or the marriage was dissolved.
Many, however, are interested in so called “expedited naturalization ” process. The Military Personnel Citizenship Act of 2008, PL 110-382, urges USCIS to adjudicate within 6 months or provide an explanation why it is unable to do so, applications for naturalization by current members of the Armed Forces under INA §§329(A), 329A; the spouse of such members under INA §319(b); or the surviving spouse or children under INA§ 319(b).
However, 319(b) can be used not only by the families of the military. In fact, INA § 319(b) allows a spouse of a U.S. citizen who is stationed abroad to obtain U.S. citizenship. For example, it can be used by a spouse of an employee or an individual under contract with the U.S. government; or an employee of a research organization; or an employee of an American organization engaged in development of trade or commerce; or a spouse of a minister of a religious denomination, etc.
This exception allows spouses of qualified U.S. citizens not to wait for 3/5 years and not be physically in the U.S. for a certain period of time prior to the application for naturalization. The applicant (non U.S. citizen) will have to demonstrate that he/she meets the following criteria:
The spouse must establish that he or she meets the following criteria in order to qualify:
- Age 18 or older at the time of filing.
- LPR at the time of filing the naturalization application.
- Continue to be the spouse of the U.S. citizen up until the time the applicant takes the Oath of Allegiance.
- Married to a U.S. citizen spouse regularly stationed abroad in qualifying employment for at least one year.
- Has a good faith intent to reside abroad with the U.S. citizen spouse upon naturalization and to reside in the United States immediately upon the citizen spouse’s termination of employment abroad.
- Establish that he or she will depart to join the citizen spouse within 30 to 45 days after the date of naturalization.
- Understanding of basic English, including the ability to read, write, and speak.
- Knowledge of basic U.S. history and government.
- Demonstrate good moral character for at least three years prior to filing the application until the time of naturalization.
- Attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law.
In general, the non-citizen spouse is required to be present in the United States after admission as a permanent resident for his/ her naturalization examination and for taking the Oath of Allegiance for naturalization.
A spouse of a member of the U.S. military applying under this provision may also qualify for naturalization under INA 316(a) or INA 319(a), which could permit him or her to be eligible for overseas processing of the naturalization application, to include interviews, filings, oaths, ceremonies, or other proceedings relating to naturalization
INA §319(b) is an excellent tool to help many U.S. citizen spouses to become citizens faster and not to worry about physical presence requirements and about losing their permanent resident status due to overseas assignments of their spouses. What is important, however, is that application has to be submitted in the U.S. in most of the cases; and the person has to be in the U.S. for the Oath Ceremony, in most of the cases.
In most of the cases, a conditional permanent resident will be able to utilize expedited path to citizenship without filing I-751 form.