On October 2, 2008, USCIS released fact sheets on the procedures for spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed forces to apply for naturalization abroad. While spouses and children must still comply with the laws relating to eligibility for naturalization, they may now apply for it abroad. According to the new USCIS guidance, they must meet certain requirements to prove that they are stationed abroad:
1. A spouse of a member of the U.S. Armed forces must have official military orders authorizing him or her to accompany their spouse abroad and must accompany their spouse abroad as provided in the orders.
2. A minor child must also have official orders allowing him or her to accompany the parent abroad.
An applicant may consider time spent abroad on official orders as time meeting the physical presence requirements of being in the United States. A spouse who wishes to apply for naturalization in three years based on his or her marriage to an American citizen still has to prove marital union but USCIS understands that involuntary separations such as those due to deployment, do not prevent naturalization.
CIS has provided a list of the required documents in their fact sheets available on their website.
It is not mandatory that a spouse or child apply abroad; is is an option they may choose. Unfortunately the USCIS guidance does not explain where the interview will take place. It is clear that the whole process may be done abroad, but the notice does not indicate where the applicant will have to go for an interview. I would assume it would be closest USCIS office abroad. This may or may not be so convenient for the applicant. The information provided also does not indicate what would happen to the application if the U.S. Armed force spouse/parent transferred to another country or left the military during this process. Presumably the application would be transferred to the USCIS district office closest to the applicant’s new residence.
While this new process makes it easier for those residing abroad to apply for naturalization, I would not advise an applicant to go through this unless he or she was planning to be abroad for at least a year. I imagine there will be delays if the applicant transfers locations or returns to the U.S. and tries to tansfer the application back.