CLARIFICATION WITH RESPECT TO ABSENCE FROM THE UNITED STATES DUE TO CERTAIN EMPLOYMENT BY CHIEF OF MISSION OR ARMED FORCES
Mr. SCOTT of Virginia: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 6223, a bill that would expand upon a small, but important provision in our immigration laws and alleviate one barrier often faced by certain persons applying for naturalization.
Under our immigration laws, a lawful permanent resident who is applying to become a U.S. citizen generally must reside continuously in the United States for 5 years. Persons who are naturalizing by virtue of their marriage to a U.S. citizen or battered spouses or children may naturalize after a 3-year period of residence. A person must also be physically present in the United States for at least one-half of that time.
In 2007, Congress enacted a law to ensure that when a person works as an interpreter or translator in Iraq or Afghanistan for the U.S. chief of mission or the Armed Forces--either directly or by contract--that time should count toward the ''continuous residence'' requirement for naturalization.
This makes sense. Why should we penalize a lawful permanent resident for choosing to provide critical translation or interpretative services in Iraq or Afghanistan by saying that the person failed to reside continuously in the United States?
Today's bill builds on that commonsense provision in law in three ways:
First, it eliminates the geographical restriction in current law and says that time spent providing qualifying services to the U.S. chief of mission or Armed Forces anywhere in the world should be considered for naturalization purposes. Lawful permanent residents provide important services to our government all around the world, and it makes little sense to limit the provision only to service in those two countries.
Second, the current law applies only to the work of translators or interpreters, but lawful permanent residents assist our chiefs of mission and Armed Forces in a variety of important ways. To the current list of qualifying jobs, this bill adds certain high-level security-related work.
Finally, although the provision in current law only allows the time abroad not to count as a break in the ''continuous residence'' requirement for naturalization, this bill would allow the time also to count toward the ''physical presence'' requirement.
I thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania for his work on the bill. I urge my colleagues to support the legislation.