What is expedited naturalization?
Expeditious or expedited naturalization exempts certain applicants of some of the regular requirements because they are married to a U.S. citizen who works abroad. Without this process, the naturalization applicant would not be able to meet the physical presence and residency requirements necessary for standard naturalization. Expedited naturalization allows for the couple to live together abroad rather than being separated for multiple years.
Who qualifies for expedited naturalization?
Applicants for expeditious naturalization must:
- Be the spouse of a U.S. citizen, who is regularly stationed abroad as a result of employment
- Married in a valid marital union
- Living together
- Have legal permanent resident (LPR) status
- At the time of the naturalization interview
- Practice Tip: There is no continuous residence requirement for expeditious naturalization! A person could file the N-400 at the same time as an I-130 family petition and immigrant visa petition.
- Meet all applicable naturalization requirements
- Leave the U.S. within 45 days of being naturalized to join his/her spouse
- The applicant must have a good faith intention to return to the U.S. once the spouse’s commitment abroad ends
In what kind of employment must the U.S. citizen spouse be engaged?
The definition of “regularly stationed abroad” means that the spouse’s employment or contact must continue for at least one year after the date of naturalization.
Practice Tip: If the spouse is not yet stationed abroad but has pending employment overseas, the naturalization application should file the application before departing the U.S. If the U.S. citizen spouse is already stationed overseas, the LPR applicant must ensure that when the application is filed, he/she will still qualify, e.g. meet all of the naturalization requirements.
The types of employment that qualify are:
- Member of the U.S. Armed Forces;
- In contract with the U.S. government;
- Employed by an American research institution, which is recognized by the U.S. Attorney General;
- Employed by an American-owned firm engaged in foreign trade;
- Employed by a public international organization; or
- A priest or other ministerial position for a denomination with presence in the U.S.
How are the requirements of standard naturalization and expeditious naturalization different?
There are fewer requirements for expeditious naturalization. The only requirements are:
- Applicant is an LPR at the time of naturalization;
- Applicant is a person of good moral character;
- Applicant can read, write, and speak basic English; and
- Applicant can answer U.S. government and history questions.
As opposed to standard naturalization, there is no 5/3 year continuous residence requirement and no physical presence requirement. However, expeditious naturalization does not exempt a person from the English language requirement, unless they are exempt under the age/residence exemption or medical disability waiver.
Is the application process different?
An applicant for expeditious naturalization should fill out the N-400 and submit the standard evidence: 2 passport photos, application fee (or fee waiver), marriage certificate, proof of spouse’s citizenship, and copy of the applicant’s green card (or pending petition).
Additionally, the applicant must submit:
- Cover letter;
- Indicate in the cover letter that the applicant is applying for expeditious naturalization under §319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The applicant should also indicate where he/she is currently residing, at which USCIS office the applicant would like to be interviewed/naturalized; and any dates that he/she are unavailable and departing the U.S.
- Affidavit from the spouse’s employer;
- Statement of intention to live abroad with USC spouse and return to the U.S. after employment;
- Copy of the applicant’s birth certificate; and
- Evidence of a valid marriage.
- This can include tax returns, bank accounts, leases, birth certificates of children, etc.
Unlike standard naturalization applications which are sent to a LockBox facility (for Massachusetts, it is the one in Dallas, TX), all expedited naturalization applications should be sent to the USCIS Vermont Service Center at 75 Lower Welden, St. Albans, VT 05479-0001.
Practice Tip: Applicants should indicate that the application is for expeditious naturalization under §319(b) on the envelope.
Is the process faster than standard naturalization?
Unfortunately, despite its name, expeditious naturalization still takes between 3 and 5 months to process. However, once a person is interviewed at the USCIS office and passes the interview, he/she will usually be sworn in the same day.