I have recently completed the naturalization process for my wife through the Section 319(b) clause and would like to share the A to Z experience.
I am a US citizen living overseas working for a US university overseas. My wife is a non-US citizen and I wanted to get her US citizenship.
The typical way of getting your spouse a US citizenship is to get a green card and live together in the US for 3 years and then apply for citizenship.
One of the requirement for getting the immigrant visa is to show a proof of domicile for the US citizen. This is proof that you are living in the US either by showing rent contract, proof work, or anything that shows that you are actually living in the US.
In addition, your non-US citizen spouse will also need to live in the US for three years to get US citizenship.
I had given up on getting her the US citizenship since I did not live in the US and did not have plans of moving to the US yet. Everything change when I learned about Section 319(b).
What is Section 319(b)?
Section 319(b) allows you to get an immigrant visa without the US citizen spouse needing to live in the US and the non-US citizen spouse does not need to live in the US to become a US citizen if you meet its requirements.
As per USCIS, (https://www.uscis.gov/citizenship/learn-about-citizenship/citizenship-and-naturalization/i-am-married-to-a-us-citizen)
Generally, if your spouse is a U.S. citizen who is employed by the U.S. government, including the military or another qualifying employer, and your spouse is scheduled to be stationed abroad for at least one year at the time you file your Form N-400, you may be eligible for naturalization under Section 319(b) of the INA. Qualifying employers can include:
Certain American institutions of research;
American firms or corporations engaged in the development of foreign trade and commerce;
Certain public international organizations; and
Certain religious denominations or interdenominational mission organizations.
In general, at the time of your naturalization interview and ceremony, you must be present in the United States under lawful admission for permanent residence and you must meet of all of the requirements listed above, with the following exceptions:
No specific period as an LPR is required (but you must have been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence);
No specific period of continuous residence or physical presence in the United States is required; and
No specific period of marital union is required; however, you and your U.S. citizen spouse must be in a valid marriage from the time you file your Form N-400 until the time you naturalize.
To check if you work at an American Institution of Research, you can check the list here.
Your institution can also apply to become an American Institution of Research:
I-130 Filing and Immigrant Visa
There is no difference in the I-130 process except in the NVC process and interview process.
For the NVC process, you will need to upload proof that you are working at an American Institution of Research in lieu of the proof of domicile.
For the interview process, you will need to bring proof that you are working at an American Institution of Research and you might need to convince the consular officer as they might not know about it!
Once you have received the green card, you may start the N-400 filing. The process is the same except that you will select that you are applying for naturalization under Section 319(b).
In addition, you will need to do fingerprinting either at the US embassy in your country of residence or in a field office before you complete your interview in the US.
You will then be interviewed and will get your Certificate of Naturalization. Congratulations!
We applied for the I-130 and had no issues until the interview for the immigrant visa at the US embassy. Originally, they rejected our case as they did not accept that my work at an American Institution of Research counted as a substitute for domicile. After a bunch of emails with the embassy, they accepted it and we got the immigrant visa. Unfortunately, COVID happened and we did not travel and the immigrant visa expired. When COVID was done, we got in contact with the embassy and again they gave us the same issues regarding the domicile. Eventually, they accepted it as they had done before. This was very stressful and was thankful that it was done.
We had no issues travelling to the US and we got the green card within a month of entering the US. We flew back home a few weeks after receiving the green card.
We applied for the N-400 on the same day we received the green card. You must select the option that you qualify for Section 319(b) when you fill out the N-400! We applied to the Washington DC Field Office as we had read online that they know the Section 319(b) process very well.
The N-400 was approved but we needed to do fingerprinting before they could schedule an interview. We asked to do the fingerprinting at a different field office and they had no issues scheduling it.
We flew to the US completed fingerprinting at the field office and then the interview was scheduled. We then flew to Washington DC to complete our interview. We brought all documents submitted. We did the interview and my wife became a US citizen.
Please feel free to comment below and I will answer any questions that come up. Please try to limit questions to Section 319(b) American Institution of Research!