The spouse of a U.S. citizen who is “regularly stationed abroad” in “qualifying employment” may be eligible for naturalization under INA section 319(b) on the basis of their marriage. Spouses eligible under this provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act are exempt from the typical continuous residence and physical presence requirements for naturalization. In practice, this means that if you qualify for expedited naturalization under INA 319(b), you can avoid the typical three or five year wait before applying for naturalization. In other words, you may file for naturalization immediately after obtaining your green card.
Eligibility Requirements for Expedited Naturalization
To qualify for expedited naturalization under section 319(b), the foreign national spouse must establish that he or she meets the following criteria:
- Age 18 or older at the time of filing.
- Green card status at the time of filing the naturalization application.
- Married to a U.S. citizen spouse regularly stationed abroad in qualifying employment for at least one year.
- 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.
- Good faith intent to depart to join the citizen spouse within 30 to 45 days after the date of naturalization.
- Remain spouse of the U.S. citizen up until the time you take the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance.
- Understanding of basic English, including the ability to read, write, and speak.
- Knowledge of basic U.S. history and government.
- 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.
The period for showing good moral character (GMC) for spouses employed abroad is not specifically stated in the corresponding statute and regulation. USCIS follows the statutory three-year GMC period preceding filing (until naturalization) specified for spouses of U.S. citizens residing in the United States.
International Travel After Your Naturalization Oath Ceremony
In general, the spouse is required to be present in the United States after admission as an LPR for his or her naturalization examination and for taking the Oath of Allegiance for naturalization.
As a newly naturalized citizen under section 319(b), you are required to depart the U.S. within 30 to 45 days after your oath ceremony and to return to your residence abroad with your qualifying spouse. You therefore must plan on applying for a U.S. passport immediately after becoming a U.S. citizen. U.S. passport applications may be expedited for urgent non-emergency travel. U.S. citizens must travel to and from the U.S. using a U.S. passport. You may not use another country’s passport to travel to/from the U.S. as a U.S. citizen.
Death, Divorce, or Expatriation of the Citizen Spouse
A person is ineligible for naturalization as the spouse of a United States citizen under section 319(b) if, before or after the filing of the application, the marital union ceases to exist due to death or divorce, or the citizen spouse has expatriated. Eligibility is not restored to an applicant whose relationship to the citizen spouse terminates before the completion of the naturalization process, even though the applicant subsequently marries another United States citizen.