Just earlier this month, USCIS issued some internal guidance on the Naturalization of service members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The special naturalization provisions are essentially governed by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008.
These amendments provide certain immigration benefits for any qualifying spouse or child of a member of the Armed Forces. Primarily, the amendments loosen the requirements of “continuous residence” and “physical presence” in the United States where a spouse or child of a member of the Armed
Forces is involved, accompanying and residing with the service member.
Under certain conditions, a spouse or child may count time residing abroad with the service member as residence and physical presence in the United States. This legislation also prescribes that such a spouse or child may be eligible for overseas proceedings relating to naturalization, as previously only permitted for an eligible member of the Armed Forces.
In general, “continuous residence” concerns the maintenance of the applicant’s residence in the United States over a period of time required by a statute, where “residence” is determined by the applicant’s principal actual dwelling place in the United States.
“Physical presence” refers to the number of days the person must physically be in the United States. Unless specifically exempt, an applicant for naturalization must generally satisfy both “continuous residence” and “physical presence” requirements and must have resided in the State or USCIS district having jurisdiction over his or her place of residence for a minimum of 90 days preceding the filing of the application.
In the context of this Act, the required period of continuous residence within the United States is reduced from five years to three years and accordingly the required period of physical presence is reduced from 30 months to 18 months for any LPR who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen.
There is no requirement of any prior period of residence or specified period of physical presence within the United States for any LPR spouse of a U.S. citizen who is an employee of the United States Government (including a member of the Armed Forces) or recognized nonprofit organization who is stationed abroad in such employment for at least one year.
Essentially, this Act, extends naturalization benefits available to Service Members to their dependents, including spouses and children.