If you are a green card holder with a U.S. citizen spouse who is employed abroad, you may qualify for a special expedited citizenship process. If your citizen spouse is employed abroad by the U.S. Government, an American business or one of certain organizations, you may be able to gain your citizenship through “expedited naturalization.” Typically, naturalization requires that a permanent resident both reside and be present in the U.S. a certain number of days before application. However, the expedited citizenship process waives these presence and residency requirements, allowing the green card holder to become a U.S. citizen much faster.
To qualify for this expedited naturalization process:
- You must be a lawful permanent resident who is married to a U.S. citizen;
- Your spouse must work for one of the following: the U.S. government; a specifically recognized American institution or public international organization; or an American corporation which is engaged in foreign commerce;
- Your spouse must be “regularly stationed abroad,” meaning that he or she will be stationed abroad for at least a year from the time that you file for citizenship;
- You must attend your citizenship interview and take your oath while in the U.S.; and
- You must intend to come to the U.S. to live after your spouse’s employment overseas ends.
In addition to the above requirements, you must also meet the other citizenship requirements, including being of good moral character, pledging allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, and passing an English and civics test.
Not only does expedited naturalization allow you to gain citizenship without having to stay in the U.S. a certain number of days, but it will also protect you from having U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) deem that you “abandoned” your green card status by spending too much time abroad.
The process for expedited citizenship involves filing the correct paperwork, including the N-400 form, with USCIS. A few weeks after you have filed your paperwork, USCIS will send you a notice directing you to a local office to have your fingerprints taken. After completing your background check, USCIS will schedule your interview at the district office which you designated on your application. The entire process may take around four to six months, although certain offices may work with you to schedule an interview faster.
You may schedule your interview at any of the district offices in the U.S., although you will want to take some things into consideration. Different offices process applications at different speeds. You will also need to obtain a U.S. passport before leaving the country, meaning you should look into scheduling in a city that has a regional passport agency. For just this reason, the Washington, D.C. field office in Fairfax, Virginia is a popular spot for expedited naturalization applications. The office in Fairfax is proficient at handling a large number of these applications while limiting any unnecessary delays. The office also provides for same day oath ceremonies after a successful interview. Another benefit to choosing the office in Fairfax is that you may quickly obtain a diplomatic passport at the Special Issuance Passport Agency in nearby Washington, D.C.
The expedited citizenship process can provide great benefits to those who are eligible. However, without precise coordination and careful planning, the process can become frustrating and expensive (especially with the overseas travel and time away from work involved). You certainly do not want to find out at the interview that you have missed or incorrectly filed something. To avoid that, it is important that you review your case with an experienced immigration attorney before filing.
The immigration lawyers at Livesay & Myers, P.C. are experienced in representing clients throughout the expedited naturalization process. From our offices in Manassas and Fairfax, Virginia, we represent clients in Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and across the United States. If you require assistance with an application for expedited citizenship, contact us to schedule your initial consultation with an experienced immigration attorney today.