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Chapter 4 - Spouses of U.S. Citizens Employed Abroad

A. General Eligibility for Spouses of U.S. Citizens Employed Abroad

The spouse of a U.S. citizen who is “regularly stationed abroad” in qualifying employment may be eligible for naturalization on the basis of their marriage. [1] Spouses otherwise eligible under this provision are exempt from the continuous residence and physical presence requirements for naturalization. [2] 

The spouse must establish that he or she meets the following criteria in order to qualify: 

  • Age 18 or older at the time of filing.

  • LPR at the time of filing the naturalization application.

  • Continue to be the spouse of the U.S. citizen up until the time the applicant takes the Oath of Allegiance.

  • Married to a U.S. citizen spouse regularly stationed abroad in qualifying employment for at least one year.

  • Has a 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.

  • Establish that he or she will depart to join the citizen spouse within 30 to 45 days after the date of naturalization. [3] 

  • Understanding of basic English, including the ability to read, write, and speak.

  • Knowledge of basic U.S. history and government.

  • Demonstrate good moral character for at least three years prior to filing the application until the time of naturalization. [4] 

  • 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. [5] USCIS follows the statutory three-year GMC period preceding filing (until naturalization) specified for spouses of U.S. citizens residing in the United States. [6] 

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. [7] 

A spouse of a member of the U.S. military applying under this provision may also qualify for naturalization under INA 316(a) or INA 319(a), which could permit him or her to be eligible for overseas processing of the naturalization application, to include interviews, filings, oaths, ceremonies, or other proceedings relating to naturalization. [8] 

B. Marital Union for Spouses Employed Abroad

The spouse of a U.S. citizen employed abroad is not required to have lived in marital union with his or her citizen spouse. [9] The spouse only needs to show that he or she is in a legally valid marriage with a U.S. citizen from the date of filing the application until the time of the Oath of Allegiance. [10] Such spouses who are not living in marital union still have to show intent to reside abroad with the U.S. citizen spouse abroad and take up residence in the United States upon termination of the qualifying employment abroad. [11] 

C. Qualifying Employment Abroad

Qualifying employment abroad means to be under employment contract or orders and to assume the duties of employment in any of following entities or positions: [12] 

  • Government of the United States (including the U.S. armed forces);

  • American institution of research recognized as such by the Attorney General; [13] 

  • American firm or corporation engaged in whole or in part in the development of foreign trade and commerce of the United States, or a subsidiary thereof;

  • Public international organization in which the United States participates by treaty or statute; [14] 

  • Authorized to perform the ministerial or priestly functions of a religious denomination having a bona fide organization within the United States; or

  • Engaged solely as a missionary by a religious denomination or by an interdenominational mission organization having a bona fide organization within the United States. 

D. Calculating Period “Regularly Stationed Abroad”

A person applying for naturalization based on marriage to a U.S. citizen employed abroad must establish that his or her citizen spouse is regularly stationed abroad. A citizen spouse is regularly stationed abroad if he or she engages in qualifying employment abroad for at least one year. [15] Both the statute and its corresponding regulation are silent on when to begin calculating the specified period regularly stationed abroad. [16] 

As a matter of policy, USCIS calculates the period of qualifying employment abroad from the time the applicant spouse properly files for naturalization. [17] However, this policy does not alter the requirement that the applicant must intend to reside abroad with the U.S. citizen spouse after naturalization. [18] 

Accordingly, the spouse of the U.S. citizen employed abroad may naturalize if his or her U.S. citizen’s qualifying employment abroad is scheduled to last for at least one year at the time of filing, even if less than one year of such employment remains at the time of the naturalization interview or Oath of Allegiance provided that the spouse remains employed abroad at the time of naturalization.

The burden is on the applicant to establish that his or her U.S. citizen’s qualifying employment abroad is scheduled to last for at least one year from the time of filing.

E. Exception to Continuous Residence and Physical Presence Requirements

Spouses of U.S. citizens who are regularly stationed abroad under qualifying employment may be eligible to file for naturalization immediately after obtaining LPR status in the United States. Such spouses are not required to have any prior period of residence or specified period of physical presence within the United States in order to qualify for naturalization. [19] 

F. In the United States for Examination and Oath of Allegiance

A spouse of a U.S. citizen who is regularly stationed abroad under qualifying employment is required to be in the United States pursuant to an admission as an LPR for the naturalization examination and the Oath of Allegiance for naturalization. [20] 

G. Application and Evidence

Application for Naturalization (Form N-400)

To apply for naturalization, the spouse of a U.S. citizen employed abroad must submit an Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) in accordance with the form instructions and with the required fee. [21] The applicant should check the “other” eligibility option on the naturalization application and indicate that he or she is applying pursuant to INA 319(b) on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen who is or will be regularly stationed abroad. 

Evidence of Spouse’s United States Citizenship

Under this provision, the burden is on the applicant to establish that he or she is married to a U.S. citizen. [22] A spouse of a U.S. citizen must submit with the application evidence to establish the U.S. citizenship of his or her spouse. [23] 

Evidence of U.S. citizenship may include:

  • Certificate of birth in the United States;​

  • Department of State Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240);​

  • Certificate of Citizenship;​

  • Certificate of Naturalization; and​

  • Valid and unexpired United States Passport.

If an official civil record cannot be produced, secondary evidence may be accepted on a case-by-case basis. An officer has the right to request an original record if there is doubt as to the authenticity of the record. [24] 

Evidence of Citizen Spouse’s Employment Abroad

Along with his or her naturalization application, the applicant must submit evidence demonstrating the spouse’s qualifying employment abroad. [25] 

Such evidence may include:

  • The name of the employer and either the nature of the employer’s business or the ministerial, religious, or missionary activity in which the employer is engaged;

  • Whether the employing entity is owned in whole or in part by United States interests;

  • Whether the employing entity is engaged in whole or in part in the development of the foreign trade and commerce of the United States;

  • The nature of the activity in which the citizen spouse is engaged; and

  • The anticipated period of employment abroad.

Evidence of Applicant’s Intent to Reside Abroad with Citizen Spouse and Return to the United States Upon Termination of Qualifying Employment

Along with his or her naturalization application, an applicant for naturalization under INA 319(b) must submit a statement describing his or her intent to reside abroad with the citizen spouse and his or her intent to take up residence within the United States immediately upon the termination of such employment abroad of the citizen spouse. [26] 

Footnotes


1. [^] See INA 319(b). See 8 CFR 319.2. See Section C, Qualifying Employment Abroad [12 USCIS-PM G.4(C)].

2. [^] See INA 319(b). See 8 CFR 319.2(a)(6).

3. [^] See 8 CFR 319.2(b).

4. [^] See INA 319(a). See 8 CFR 319.1(a)(7) and 8 CFR 319.2(a)(5).

5. [^] See INA 319(b). See 8 CFR 319.2(a)(5).

6. [^] See INA 319(a). See 8 CFR 319.1(a)(7).

7. [^] See INA 319(b). See 8 CFR 319.2.

8. [^] See Part I, Military Members and their Families, Chapter 9, Spouses, Children, and Surviving Family Benefits, Section B, Spouses of Military Members [12 USCIS-PM I.9(B)]. See INA 319(e). See 8 U.S.C. 1443a.

9. [^] See INA 319(b). See 8 CFR 319.1(b)(1). See Chapter 2, Marriage and Marital Union for Naturalization [12 USCIS-PM G.2].

10. [^] See Chapter 2, Marriage and Marital Union for Naturalization, Section A, Validity of Marriage [12 USCIS-PM G.2(A)].

11. [^] See 8 CFR 319.2(a)(4).

12. [^] See INA 319(b)(1)(B).

13. [^] See 8 CFR 316.20(a). See uscis.gov/AIR lists of recognized organizations.

14. [^] See 8 CFR 319.5 and 8 CFR 316.20(b).

15. [^] See INA 319(b)(1)(B) and INA 319(b)(1)(C). See 8 CFR 319.2(a)(1). See Section G, Application and Evidence [12 USCIS-PM G.4(G)].

16. [^] See INA 319(b)(1)(B) and INA 319(b)(1)(C). See 8 CFR 319.2(a)(1).

17. [^] This policy is effective as of January 22, 2013, effective date of first publication of the USCIS Policy Manual and will not be applied retroactively.

18. [^] See 8 CFR 319.2(a)(4).

19. [^] See INA 319(b)(3). See 8 CFR 319.2(a)(6). See Part D, General Naturalization Requirements, Chapter 5, Modifications and Exceptions to Continuous Residence and Physical Presence [12 USCIS-PM D.5].

20. [^] See INA 319(b). See 8 CFR 319.2. Spouses of members of the U.S. armed forces may be eligible for overseas processing. See Part I, Military Members and their Families, Chapter 9, Spouses, Children, and Surviving Family Benefits, Section B, Spouses of Military Members [12 USCIS-PM I.9(B)].

21. [^] See 8 CFR 319.11(a). See 8 CFR 103.7(b)(1).

22. [^] See Chapter 2, Marriage and Marital Union for Naturalization [12 USCIS-PM G.2].

23. [^] See INA 319(b). See 8 CFR 319.2(a).

24. [^] See 8 CFR 103.2(b)(5). See 8 CFR 319.1 and 8 CFR 319.2

25. [^] See INA 319(b). See 8 CFR 319.11(a).

26. [^] See 8 CFR 319.2(a)(4).

Resources

Legal Authorities

8 CFR 316.5(b)(6) - Residence for certain spouses of military personnel

8 CFR 316.6 - Physical presence for certain spouses of military personnel

INA 101(f) - Definition of good moral character

INA 312, 8 CFR 312 - Educational requirements for naturalization

INA 316, 8 CFR 316 - General requirements for naturalization

INA 318 - Prerequisite to naturalization, burden of proof

INA 319(e) - Residence, physical presence, and overseas naturalization for certain spouses of military personnel

INA 319, 8 CFR 319 - Spouses of U.S. citizens

INA 332, 8 CFR 332 - Naturalization administration, executive functions

INA 334, 8 CFR 334 - Application for naturalization; declaration of intention

Appendices

Appendix: History of Acquiring Citizenship under INA 320 for Children of U.S. Citizens who are Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, U.S. Government Employees, or their Spouses

Before October 29, 2019, USCIS considered children of members of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employees, who were stationed outside of the United States, to meet the requirement of “is residing in” the United States for the purpose of acquiring citizenship under INA 320.[1] This interpretation was consistent with the definition of “residence” for purposes of naturalization under INA 316.[2] Based on this treatment of U.S. government employees and their children in the context of naturalization under INA 316, USCIS determined that “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquisition of citizenship under INA 320 should likewise be interpreted to include children of U.S. military and government employees stationed outside of the United States who were residing with their parents.[3]

This interpretation, however, was inconsistent with other provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), including the definition of “residence” at INA 101(a)(33) and language in INA 322(a) and INA 322(d), which suggested that the citizenship of military children residing outside of the United States should be considered under that provision rather than under INA 320. Effective October 29, 2019, USCIS amended its policy guidance to address these concerns, and determined that children of members of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employees stationed outside of the United States would not be eligible for citizenship acquisition under INA 320.[4]

On March 26, 2020, the Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act was enacted,[5] amending INA 320, so that a child residing with his or her U.S. citizen parent, who is stationed outside of the United States as a member of the U.S. armed forces or a U.S. government employee, or is residing in marital union with a member of the U.S. armed forces or a U.S. government employee who is stationed outside of the United States, acquires citizenship under INA 320 if all requirements of INA 320(c) and INA 320(a)(1)-(2) are met. In line with the statute, USCIS rescinds its previous guidance, clarifying that these children are eligible to acquire citizenship under INA 320 if all other requirements under INA 320 are met.

The amendment to INA 320 applies to children who were under the age of 18 on March 26, 2020.

Footnotes


[^ 1] Even though the child of a member of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employee stationed outside of the United States may be eligible to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship under INA 322 since he or she resides outside of the United States, USCIS interpreted the child to meet residency requirements under INA 320 as well, which formerly required the child to be residing in the United States with his or her parent to acquire citizenship.

[^ 2] For example, U.S. government employees, including members of the U.S. armed forces, are eligible to apply for an exception to the continuous residence requirement for naturalization under INA 316 as long as their residency outside of the United States was on behalf of the U.S. government. See INA 316(b). See INA 316(a). See Part D, General Naturalization Requirements, Chapter 3, Continuous Residence [12 USCIS-PM D.3].

[^ 3] See Policy Manual Technical Update, Child Citizenship Act and Children of U.S. Government Employees Residing Abroad (July 20, 2015); and Acquisition of Citizenship by Children of U.S. Military and Government Employees Stationed Abroad under Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), No. 103, issued May 6, 2004.

[^ 4] See USCIS Policy Alert, Defining “Residence” in Statutory Provisions Related to Citizenship [PA-2019-05] (PDF, 308.45 KB). This Policy Alert has been superseded by Policy Manual updates to reflect changes made under Pub. L. 116-133 (PDF).

[^ 5] See Pub. L. 116-133 (PDF) (March 26, 2020).

Updates

Technical Update - Moving the Adjudicator’s Field Manual Content into the USCIS Policy Manual

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating and incorporating relevant Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) content into the USCIS Policy Manual. As that process is ongoing, USCIS has moved any remaining AFM content to its corresponding USCIS Policy Manual Part, in PDF format, until relevant AFM content has been properly incorporated into the USCIS Policy Manual. To the extent that a provision in the USCIS Policy Manual conflicts with remaining AFM content or Policy Memoranda, the updated information in the USCIS Policy Manual prevails. To find remaining AFM content, see the crosswalk (PDF) between the AFM and the Policy Manual.

Technical Update - Replacing the Term “Foreign National”

This technical update replaces all instances of the term “foreign national” with “alien” throughout the Policy Manual as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].

POLICY ALERT - Comprehensive Citizenship and Naturalization Policy Guidance

USCIS is issuing updated and comprehensive citizenship and naturalization policy guidance in the new USCIS Policy Manual.

Read More