Is it possible to apply for US Citizenship from the UK?
To make an application for US citizenship from outside the country, such as from the UK, it will be important to ensure this does not impact your ability to meet the stringent citizenship eligibility requirements. In particular, you must ensure that you meet the requirement for permanent and continuous residence and physical presence in the USA before making your application.
Continuous residence & physical presence in the US
Critical to any application for US citizenship is demonstrating you have properly maintained your Green Card status and continuous residence as a lawful permanent resident (LPR) for the relevant qualifying period of 5 years (or 3 years if married to a US citizen). During this period, you must have been present and living in the US, for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately prior to applying for naturalization.
You should also have been residing in the State or USCIS district in which you intend to apply, for a minimum of 3 months prior to applying for citizenship.
The effect of absences on citizenship eligibility
Periods of absence from the US may affect your continuous residence, and as such will need to be explained in your application. Where your absences exceed the general requirements, you may not be eligible to apply for citizenship and the clock would effectively be reset on your qualifying period.
For example, if you were absent from the US for a period of less than 6 months, continuous residence will not be deemed to have been disrupted.
However, if you had left the USA for between 6 and 12 months, you would have to prove that despite this absence, your continuity of residence was not disrupted.
The nature and type of evidence to support your continued residence will be determined by your specifica circumstances, but could include documents that evidence:
- Your continued employment in the US
- Your immediate family remained in the US during your absence
- You have retained ownership and access to your US home
This may include bank statements, tax returns, medical insurance documents.
Applying for US citizenship from the UK under Expeditious Naturalization
One potential exception to the residence rule is under ‘expeditious naturalization’. This applies to foreign spouses of US citizens who are working for an American-headquartered company abroad.
The applicant is exempt from the normal requirements of continuous residence as a lawful permanent resident and being physically present in the US for one half of that time. In other words, you will not be required to have three years of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States and you do not have to wait until you have been married for three years.
Where eligible, you may be able to file your application online from within the UK (or wherever the company is based outside the US) but you will need to appear in the US to attend an immigration interview, attend the Oath ceremony and to file your US passport application.
To apply for expeditious naturalization you need to demonstrate that you have good faith intent to reside in the United States with your US citizen spouse. You should establish that you will depart your current country of residence to join your citizen spouse within 30 to 34 days of naturalization.
Note that the term ‘expeditious’ refers to the residency requirement, and not the application process. is waived for spouses of certain government employees posted overseas. It does not mean that the process is expedited. Security and background investigations are still required for all applicants, which can take a period of months.
Further eligibility requirements
In addition continuous residence, you will need to satisfy a number of other eligibility requirements for US citizenship.
You must be at least 18 years of age at the point you file Form N-400, the Application for Naturalisation.
You are required to have at least 6 months left before your current Green Card expires. If you do not, you should apply for a new Green Card. You may apply for naturalisation before your new card arrives, but you will need to send a copy of your I-90 form with your application.
You will need to demonstrate you are a person of good moral character, ie not have any criminal convictions, as well as showing an affiliation to the principles and ideals of the US Constitution. To demonstrate your affiliation means showing that you have been working and paying your taxes and have committed no criminal activity.
It is essential that you are able to demonstrate your ability to read, write and speak English and have a basic understanding of US history and government. To demonstrate your knowledge you will be required to sit the naturalization test.
US naturalization process
Submitting your N-400 Form
You can file up to 90 days before the date of meeting the required 3 or 5-year period of continuous residence as an LPR.
You will need to file all your paperwork with the USCIS, including your completed, signed Form N-400, two passport style photos and documents that prove your eligibility for naturalisation. This will need to be done within the US unless you are a foreign spouse of a US citizen working for an American headquartered company abroad under expidited naturalization.
Supporting documents include:
- A photocopy of both sides of your Permanent Resident Card or
- A photocopy of your I-90 application if you have applied to replace your permanent resident card
- Payment of the application fee and biometric service fees
- If a solicitor is acting on your behalf you will need to send a completed original Form G-28
- If your legal name is different to the one on your Green Card you will need to send a copy of the document that legally changed your name, for example marriage certificate
- If applying on the basis of marriage to a US citizen send evidence that your spouse has been a US citizen for the last 3 years, for example their birth certificate or naturalisation documents, your current marriage certificate, including proof that any prior marriages are legally terminated.
- Tax returns, bank statements, lease or mortgage agreement
If your application is incomplete, USCIS may ask for additional information. This will cause delays in the processing time.
Submitting your biometric information
You will be given an appointment for notice once your application has been submitted. The notice will give you the date, time and location of your Application Service Centre, ASC, appointment.
If you are currently overseas, you will receive a notice instructing you to contact a U.S. Embassy, U.S. Consulate, or USCIS office outside the US to set up an appointment.
It takes between 15-30 minutes. During your appointment you will have your fingerprints and photograph taken. It is necessary to be present in the US for this appointment, without exception.
US naturalization test & interview
The interview will be held at the office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that serves the region in which you live.
During your interview you will be asked to complete a naturalization & CIVICS test. You will need to complete an English test unless you are exempt. To be exempt, English will need to be your first language or you demonstrate good knowledge of the language during the interview.
There are 100 questions on the CIVICS test, you will be asked 10 of them. You must score a minimum of 6 correct to be granted a pass. It is highly advisable that you study for the test prior to taking it.
Attending the Oath ceremony
Taking the oath is the final step and will complete the process of becoming a US citizen. There are two types of ceremonies. A judicial ceremony takes place in court and the court administers the Oath of Allegiance. An administrative ceremony has USCIS minister the Oath.
You may be able to take your oath on the day of your interview, otherwise you will be sent a notification of when and where to attend. Once you arrive you will need to check in with a USCIS officer who will review your Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony. You should complete this before arriving.
You will be required to hand over your existing Permanent Residence Card. You will then take the oath and receive your certificate of naturalization.
Once you have received your Certificate of Naturalization, you may then apply for your US passport. It is recommended that you do this as soon as possible. You can also register to vote and update your social security records.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.