Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Expeditious Naturalization Guidelines

Guidelines for Expeditious Naturalization

Guidelines for Expeditious Naturalization
This material is for Eligible Family Members of Department of State direct-hire personnel only. Other Agency spouses should contact their Human Resource departments for possible assistance with 319(b) naturalization.

Who Qualifies for Naturalization Assistance from the Family Liaison Office? The following requirements must be fulfilled:

A foreign-born spouse must have entered the U.S. legally and have Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status in the U.S. (The LPR status may be conditional and if a "green card" has not been issued yet, an "A" number in the passport with the annotation "processed for I-551" is sufficient.) Additionally, one of the following very important requirements must be true:
  1. The spouse must be going with the employee on an overseas assignment. In this situation naturalization cannot take place more than 45 days prior to departure from the U.S. You may, however, apply and start the process if you have received your post assignment notification. Please note: USCIS will not waive this 45 day requirement.

  2. The spouse must currently be at an overseas post with the employee and must have at least one year left at post at the time the naturalization process will be completed (generally five to seven months after the N400 application is submitted to USCIS). Please note: USCIS will not waive this requirement. For practical purposes this means you need 18 months or more remaining on your overseas tour to start the naturalization process.
Please be aware that only USCIS can adjudicate naturalization applications. FLO's role is to guide and advise DOS Foreign Service personnel and their spouses on the expeditious naturalization process, verify eligibility, and facilitate 319(b) naturalization. To receive further information please call FLO's Reception Desk at (202) 647-1076 or write to our naturalization specialist at FLOAskNaturalization@state.gov.

The Process
Please see this Expeditious Naturalization Flow Chart for an overview of the process. To begin, applicants must complete the Cover Letter Information Form. Fill out the form, save it to your computer, and return it to FLO with a copy of the post assignment notification (TM One). Based on the information you provide, FLO will generate a cover letter on DOS letterhead and send it back to the applicant together with the USCIS mailing address and instructions for submitting the N400 application.

The applicant should visit the FLO Expeditious Naturalization Application Materials and Information webpage for application forms, information, and instructions on preparing your application for submission to USCIS.
The current fee for processing an N400 application is $675 if you apply from the U.S. or $595 if you apply from abroad with fingerprint cards. If you are applying from the U.S. you will receive a notice from USCIS directing you to a local Applicant Support Center (ASC) for a fingerprint appointment a few weeks after you submit the N400 application form.

You may choose to complete the interview at any USCIS district office in the US; however, FLO's experience is that requesting a district office where they rarely, or maybe never, process a 319(b) case may cause delays. FLO recommends that naturalization interviews be completed at the Washington District Office in Fairfax, VA. FLO has strong contacts with this office and it is conveniently located so the new US citizen can quickly apply for a diplomatic passport at the Special Issuance Passport Agency in Washington, D.C.

When the background investigation is complete and the case is ready for adjudication, the USCIS will send the naturalization interview appointment notice to the applicant. The interview notice should be sent to the Naturalization Specialist, who will contact the applicant and (1) confirm that the applicant will be present for the interview granted; or (2) work with the applicant and the USCIS to schedule the interview and oath on a date that best fits the applicant's travel and work plans. In Fairfax, if the applicant is successful in the interview and exam, the oath ceremony usually takes place the same day. After taking the oath, the applicant receives a Certificate of Citizenship to prove that he or she is now a U.S. citizen. Cameras are allowed and guests are encouraged to attend the oath ceremony.

The average processing time is currently around three to seven months but it may take longer. Neither USCIS nor FLO has control over how long the background investigation portion of the naturalization processing may take. Although you may have requested a certain month or date for the interview, if the case is not ready for adjudication you will have to wait. If you are overseas, please do not make travel arrangements until you have been informed that your case is ready for adjudication!

Many applicants who are already serving overseas request an interview date during a time they may be able to take advantage of R&R travel. There is no financial assistance from the U. S. Government or the Department of State for this process. Applying to become a U.S. citizen is considered a private matter.

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