Integrity Legal

3rd April 2011

While surfing the internet recently this blogger came upon a very interesting posting on the ILW website which discussed the issue of naturalization in the United States and how the naturalization process operates when a prospective United States Citizen who may seek naturalization remains outside of the United States while working for an American company with offices abroad.  To quote directly from an article written by Attorney Cyrus D. Mehta on the website ILW.com:

It is not uncommon for a permanent resident to receive a plum posting for an American corporation overseas or for its subsidiary. This is a frequent occurrence these days in a globalized world, and especially when jobs have become more scarce in the US since the economic downturn. While such an assignment may provide a great boost to the permanent resident’s career, he or she may still wish to preserve the ability to naturalize, but the overseas posting presents a challenge since it may be difficult to maintain continuous residence. One of the key requirements for applying for US citizenship under INA § 316(a) is the need to be physically present for half the time in the US during the qualifying period, which may either be five or three years (if one is married to a US citizen) and to have also resided continuously during this period. The challenges of maintaining residence while on an overseas assignment were addressed in a prior blog, Naturalizing In A Flat World, http://cyrusmehta.blogspot.com/2010/07/naturalizing-in-flat-world.html.

Those reading this blog are well advised to click on the hyperlinks above to read the above cited article in its entirety as the article is very insightful.

Those who are unfamiliar with the overall immigration process should note that visas such as the CR-1 visa and the IR-1 visa (utilized by the immigrant spouses of American Citizens) can place the visa holder on something of a “path to Citizenship”. That being stated, the CR-1 visa only provides the visa holder with conditional lawful permanent residence upon entry as such visas are issued to couples who have been married for less than 2 years at the time of admission to the USA. Meanwhile, the IR-1 visa provides unconditional lawful permanent residence upon admission to the USA and is issued to spouses of American Citizens who have been married for 2 years or more. After remaining in permanent resident status in the USA for 3 years, and maintaining the requisite physical presence required under relevant US law, a permanent resident, married to an American, can file for naturalization to United States Citizenship.

This issue also relates to the K-1 visa (a non-immigrant US fiance visa) because those who enter the United States in K-1 status, get married, and apply for adjustment of status may begin accruing time toward eventual naturalization as soon as the adjustment of status petition is approved. Once an adjustment is approved for a K-1 visa holder, then that individual essentially becomes a CR-1 visa holder with Lawful Permanent Residence. Therefore, the K-1 holder, now permanent resident, must still apply for a lift of conditions before being granted unconditional lawful permanent residence which must precede an eventual naturalization application.

As noted in the article cited above, there may be some US permanent residents who can accrue time toward naturalization while not actually physically in the United States if such an endeavor fits within some of the exceptions present within the statutory framework of relevant US Immigration law. American companies with offices abroad may fit the statutory exception scheme for naturalization notwithstanding foreign residence. However, the unique facts in any case require that those truly interested in this issue must either conduct their own thorough research or retain the assistance of an American attorney as this issue can be highly complex.

Many American companies operating out of the Kingdom of Thailand opt to conduct their affairs pursuant to the privileges accorded to Americans and American companies under the US-Thai Treaty of Amity. So-called “Treaty of Amity Companies” may allow for an American individual or company to own virtually 100% of a Thai enterprise conducting business in Thailand. Amity certification allows American businesses to operate with “National Treatment” and thereby circumvent some of the restrictions placed upon foreign business enterprises pursuant to other relevant Thai law. That said, Amity Treaty certification may not, in and of itself, mean that one working for such a company can accrue time toward naturalization while abroad as such issues are likely best analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

For related information please see: Thai Company or US Company Registration.


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