Can I apply for U.S. citizenship from abroad without physical presence in the U.S.?
Immigration reform created laws to eradicate the inequitable situation created when an immigrant spouse who, by reason of enforced absence from the U.S. occasioned by their U.S. Citizen spouse’s employment abroad, could not meet the normal residency requirements for naturalization. USCIS states that applications made with respect to these laws will be given high priority and will receive special expedited handling. For more on the USCIS definitions and requirements for the business or employer, please read more here.
What are the requirements for expedited U.S. Naturalization?
Generally, a spouse of a U.S. citizen who is employed by the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government, including the military, whose spouse is scheduled to be stationed abroad in such employment for at least 1 year at the time of filing the application, may be eligible for the expedited naturalization process. Part-time employees can only be covered if they work a “substantial portion” of their time.
A spouse of a U.S. citizen employed abroad must be present in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence at the time of examination on the naturalization application and at the time of naturalization, and meet of all of the requirements listed above except that:
No specific period as a permanent resident (green card holder) is required (but the spouse must be a permanent resident)
No specific period of continuous residence or physical presence in the United States is required
No specific period of marital union is required; however, the spouses must be in a valid marriage at the time of filing until the time of naturalization.
You must also establish that you will depart abroad immediately after naturalization and that you intend to reside in the United States immediately upon the termination of your spouse’s employment abroad.
How long will it take for my expedited naturalization application to be processed by USCIS?
Expedited naturalization cases are typically adjudicated within five to seven months. However, these cases are still subject to background checks and might be delayed significantly longer as a result.
You must be present in the U.S. as a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) at the time of naturalization examination. Then you must depart to join the U.S. citizen spouse within 45 days after the date of your naturalization.
It is recommended that the applicant be prepared to show proof, such as flight itinerary, the he or she intends to join the U.S. citizen spouse abroad in a timely fashion.
What if my spouse’s job abroad is delayed or is cancelled?
If there is a “delay or cancellation” of the U.S. citizen spouse’s assignment abroad, the applicant must immediately notify USCIS to update their application. If the applicant is unable to reside with the U.S. citizen spouse, because the area abroad is an “area of hostilities where the dependents may not reside,” the applicant must also immediately notify USCIS. The regulations do not explicitly state that an applicant will become ineligible for naturalization based on the latter situation as the circumstance is likely to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
What if my spouse and I are divorced before the application is processed by USCIS?
If your marriage terminates because of divorce “before or after the filing of the application,” or by death, or if the U.S. citizen spouse expatriates (e.g., renounces U.S. citizenship), you will no longer qualify for expedited naturalization. However, if you were in a bona fide marriage at the time of filing, once you naturalize, the case is unlikely to be revisited by USCIS, absent any indication of fraud.
What documentation will be required by USCIS for my expedited application for naturalization?
The following documents are needed in support of your naturalization application. You will need to include:
A statement from the U.S. citizen spouse’s employer indicating that the U.S. citizen spouse is expected to remain employed overseas for a minimum of 20 months from the date of the application. Immigration law specifies that to be “regularly stationed abroad,” the U.S. citizen spouse must have at least one year remaining at the time of the applicant’s naturalization on his or her overseas duty pursuant to an employment contract or orders.
An official letter from a U.S. government agency, public international organization, or firm incorporated in the United States or a foreign subsidiary with at least 51% American ownership that includes the following:
The title of the official making the affidavit, the name of the firm or corporation, and whether he or she has access to the records of the firm or corporation
Whether the employing organization is an American firm or corporation engaged in the development of foreign trade and commerce of the United States or is a subsidiary thereof. An American firm is defined as being at least 51% owned by U.S. citizens; and
The nature of the business which is conducted by the employing organization
The name of the State under the laws of which it was organized, the date of incorporation, and that it is existent
The facts of the U.S. citizen spouse’s employment and the basis of hire (contract, regular employee, etc.) and the prospective length of time he or she is committed to remain in overseas employment
If you have already been admitted to the United States as an immigrant, you should submit copies of the following documents with the application:
Proof of U.S. citizen spouse’s U.S. citizenship (e.g., U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, or certificate of citizenship or naturalization)
your birth certificate
the marriage certificate
proof of termination of all prior marriages for the applicant and the U.S. citizen spouse