Citizenship for Spouses of Americans Abroad

A little known section of the immigration law allows spouses of Americans working abroad for American companies to become citizens without waiting three years.  Under INA Section 319(b), as long as a person is married to a U.S. citizen who is employed abroad by an American company at least 51% owned by American interests (or U.S. government employee, religious organization, or international organization in some instances), and the American citizen spouse is regularly stationed abroad for a certain length of time, the foreign spouse may be able to first obtain Lawful Permanent Resident status (LPR or green card), then immediately apply for naturalization under 319(b) under certain conditions.  This avoids the situation of the LPR having to reside in the United States for three years as a permanent resident before applying for naturalization, which would naturally result in the separation of the U.S. citizen working abroad, and the spouse who is an LPR.  The non-citizen spouse would usually be required to spend most of the time in the U.S. during the three years, but not under this exception.  Section 319(b) of the INA can be used in these circumstances to enable a foreign citizen spouse the ability to live together abroad with the U.S. citizen as an American citizen, and enjoy the freedom and flexibility that U.S. citizenship offers.  While not all will qualify, 319(b) should be considered together with counsel by those who reside abroad with their U.S. citizen spouses who work for American companies.

  View the State Department Guidance on 319(b) naturalization

View the State Department Guidance on 319(b) naturalization