Q. I am a U.S. Citizen while my wife is a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). We have been married for over five years now but my wife has only been a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) since August 14, 2009. I am looking into an expedited naturalization for my wife based on work. I am about to begin with Harvard University as a Master of Liberal Arts Student. I have to complete a Master’s thesis proposal and eventually a thesis for which I will need to be in the United Arab Emirates for about 12 to 20 months. I don’t get paid by the Harvard Extension School as this is a self-paced research which one has to complete in order to obtain the Masters of Liberal Arts program. Does my wife qualify for an expedited naturalization based on 319(b)?

June 15, 2012 | Family Petition, Legal Permanent Residents (LPR), Naturalization

A. Your question refers to section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a provision that allows certain permanent residents to have their naturalization “expedited” if their U.S. citizen spouse is working overseas.  The naturalization is expedited, for an eligible applicant, in the sense that she does not have to meet the requirements of presence in the United States that normally need to be met for naturalization.  The provision covers employees of the U.S. government, certain American research institutions and corporations, and certain religious organizations.  U.S. citizens conducting research abroad may qualify for this provision, but only if their study and research abroad relates to a doctoral dissertation, pursuant to certain fellowship grants.  The research you described would unfortunately not qualify.

However, under INA 319(a), a permanent resident who is married to a U.S. citizen for three years is eligible to file after only three years of permanent residence (rather than the five years that most folks must wait).  Also, applications can be sent 90 days before meeting the respective period of continuous residence (whether it is three years or five years).  In this case, you and your wife have been married for five years, and she has been a permanent resident for two years and 10 months.  The first date on which your wife was eligible to apply is May 16, 2012 (two years and nine months from the date she became a permanent resident).  So, assuming that your wife meets all other naturalization requirements – including physical presence in the United States – your wife should be able to file for naturalization.

It is taking about six months from filing to swearing-in for a permanent resident to become a U.S. citizen.  Hopefully your wife can naturalize before you must spend a lengthy time abroad. If she does not become a U.S. citizen before you leave, she should get a re-entry permit, if she will be with you abroad. Also, note that if she is abroad for one continuous year or more, when she returns she would need to wait two years and one day before qualifying to naturalize.

Please check out the section of our website that lists our immigration centers for assistance with the application.  Good luck with the Masters!