If you are married to a US citizen working for certain organizations overseas, you may be able to naturalize without having resided at all in the United States. This is sometimes called “expedited” naturalization and is authorized under section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The purpose of INA section 319(b) is to allow people to reside abroad with their USC spouses. Without the law, legal permanent residents might abandon their permanent residence by spending too much time out of the country, or their USC spouses might be deterred from working overseas in the US interest.
1. You must be a legal permanent resident married to a US citizen.
2. Your spouse must work for one of the following organizations:
- the United States Government
- an American institution of research recognized by the Attorney General
- an American firm or corporation engaged in foreign trade or commerce, or a subsidiary thereof
- a public international organization, such as the United Nations or subsidiary body
or, must work as
- a minister or missionary of a religious denomination having a bona fide organization in the United States
3. Your spouse must be “regularly stationed” abroad. USCIS has interpreted that to mean that your spouse will be working abroad for at least a year from the time of filing.
4. After your spouse’s overseas employment ends, you must intend to take up residence in United States.
Once you have become a permanent resident (for example, by entering the United States with an immigrant visa), you may apply for naturalization under 319(b) in any part of the country. Although you may process anywhere in the country, there are some factors to consider. Processing times vary from office to office. USCIS publishes field office processing times on its website. Also, your application may not be approved or the office may not be able to conduct the oath on the same day as the interview, so you may want to choose a city where you do not mind spending a little time. Larger offices may have more familiarity with the 319(b) criteria, while smaller offices tend to be more personable and flexible. Finally, you will need to travel with a US passport after naturalizing, so you may want to choose a city that also has a regional passport agency for expedited passport applications. All else being equal, the Washington, DC office located in Fairfax, VA is a good place to process.
Fingerprints can be done at a US Embassy or Consulate near you, either before or after filing. It is also possible to do them in the United States, if you are still residing here.
You have to return to the United States for the interview and the oath ceremony. It is usually possible to do the oath immediately following the interview.