Citizenship for professional wife living primarily overseas.

My wife and I have been married for over 4 years. I am a born American Citizen and she is a Costa Rican Citizen.

We spend most of our time in Costa Rica but I maintain my residency in the United States and we travel back to the US (Northern Virginia) together about once every 30-45 days (for about a week or 10 days).

My wife is an accomplished attorney who established her own office 12 years ago and I am a international relations policy consultant.

She has a 10 year visa B1/B2.

We were told that since we do not both “live" in the US it will be difficult for her to apply for citizenship.

However, we were recently told that since we have been married for over 4 years she will be able to apply for citizenship while we are abroad.

We both have clean criminal records and are professionals.

Can you please advise on the best pathway for her to get citizenship?

Thanking you in advance.


Super Moderator
Your wife will need to become a US permanent resident first before you guys can even entertain the thoughts of her becoming a US citizen. She can’t simply apply for a US citizenship on the basis of being married to you, a USC for over 4 years. It doesn’t work like that.

If you want to sponsor your wife for a US green card, this will involve you relocating to the US. You can start by going over the information in the following link:

If you have no plans of residing in the US, stick to the yearly visits you both currently make.
My apologies. After rereading my message I realized I wrote citizenship when I primarily meant Permanent residency.

We are currently traveling every 30 days or so back to the US. Additionally, she is a contributing author for a leading legal publication in the United States (pro bono). I am fairly certain we will be shifting most of our time to the US given my work in DC and we are trying to plan for our eventual full time move.

Is there anything that we can do now to start this process? The six-month living regulation is a little difficult for us now since she has an active law practice in Costa Rica. It is difficult for her to just drop everything for this move so we are hoping for some sort of gradual transition. For instance, (if willing) can the legal publication provide some assistance at this time regarding her work with them?


Super Moderator
There’s no immediate requirement for her to drop everything right now and move over to the US. The requirement to live in the US is after she’s been granted a GC. Of course you can start the process now, and here’s what you need to do:

However after getting the GC, if it is determined she’s not actually residing in the US, but is simply using the GC to enter the US every now and then, she will eventually loose the GC and permanent residency.

Again, if you guys are not quite ready to transition back to the US because she wants to keep her active law practice in Costa Rica, then continue as is. The GC is meant for residing and working in the US. I don’t see any role the legal publication she works for pro bono has a part to play in this, but go ahead and seek their opinion.

Of course there is the option of obtaining a re-entry permit after getting the GC which enables her to continue primarily residing in Costa Rica for two years without the fear of jeopardizing her GC. However, you guys need to be aware of the fact that she will need to file a US tax return on her world wide income, including what she will be making in Costa while not technically residing in the US.