A long overdue change in immigration procedures.
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Foreign spouses of U.S. servicemembers stationed overseas no longer must fly to the United States to obtain citizenship, according to a new law and Department of Homeland Security officials.
Representatives of the department’s Citizenship and Immigration Services can now interview and swear in command-sponsored foreign spouses and children at their overseas stations, officials said Thursday.
On May 29, Zita Choucan became the first military spouse to obtain citizenship under the new law at the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany.
Officials are now reviewing their case loads in South Korea and Japan for applicants who may qualify, said Kenneth Sherman, Citizenship and Immigration Services field office director at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.
“We’ve already identified two cases in Japan and one possible case in Korea,” said Sherman, who oversees citizenship applications in both countries.
The new procedure granting citizenship at duty stations was approved in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, which President Bush signed Jan. 28.
Spouses must still go through a background check and all of the same procedures they would while seeking citizenship in the United States, Sherman said.
They also must hold permanent resident-status “green cards” for at least three years.
Adopted children applying for citizenship must have a parent who is a U.S. citizen and has spent at least five years in the United States.
Time spent at an overseas duty station counts toward that five years, according to the law.
The new law sounds like a blessing to Darrell Thomas, safety officer for the 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu, South Korea.
Thomas married a South Korean woman 10 years ago, and they’ve dealt with hassles along the way when moving to different duty stations because of her nationality.
She had been thinking about getting U.S. citizenship, but under the old system, Thomas would have had to pay for plane tickets, hotels, food and other expenses to send his family stateside for the citizenship interview and test, he said.
“That’s a fairly good chunk of change,” Thomas said.
“This should reduce my cost tremendously. … If I can just drive down to Seoul, that’s a no-brainer for me.”
For foreign born spouses of US service personnel, the hassles can be many. Take for instance once the spouse gets their green card. They are supposed to reside in the United States but if they’re husband or wife is stationed overseas, the spouse must carry a copy of husband/wife’s orders when re-entering the US. That or you can be denied re-entry.
Another problem these spouses face, is where to apply for their citizenship. Lets say A is married to M, who is stationed at an AF base in Texas. A applies for citizenship to the immigration processing center that handles Texas. Then M gets new orders, say for Virginia. That’s a different processing center. You know the spouse would have to begin the application process all over again? My favorite milbogger shares some of his experiences in a blog comment here.
Once again I say our service people deserve to get expedited processing(including having to pay lower fees) when it comes to any immigration matters they have. They are putting their lives on the line for their country. I feel it is the least we can do.