Applying For U.S. Citizenship – Understanding How Long
A U.S. Resident Must Wait
There is often a lot of confusion about when an immigrant is eligible to apply for U.S Citizenship through Naturalization. The basic rule is that a U.S. Permanent Resident (Green Card holder) can apply for U.S. citizenship once he or she has been a Resident in the U.S. for at least 5 years.
90-Day Early Application Rule
Even though the rules require a U.S. Permanent Resident hold a Green Card for five years, Residents are actually allowed to submit a Naturalization application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the 90-days before their five-year anniversary has arrived.
Here are some of the exceptions to the Five year rule:
Exception to Five-Year Rule for Residents Who Are Married to a U.S. Citizen
For U.S. Permanent Resident who are married to a U.S. Citizen, the waiting time to apply for U.S. Citizenship is only 3 years, if, during that time, they have been a Resident married to, as well as living with, a U.S. citizen and the U.S. Citizen spouse has been a U.S. Citizen for at least 3 years.
This exception is called “Early Naturalization” and applies even for Residents who did not obtain their Green Card through marriage. So, for example, a U.S. Permanent Resident who obtained a Green Card through employment, then married a U.S. citizen soon after can apply for Naturalization once they have been a Resident and married to the U.S. Citizen for at least 3 years.
Exception to Five-Year Rule for Battered Spouses of a U.S. Citizen Granted VAWA Protection
Battered spouses and children are also eligible to apply for Early Naturalization, since the law would not want to force a Resident to have to stay in an abusive marriage for three years just to obtain the benefit of the Three-year exception when they applied for U.S. Citizenship..
Children of a Battered spouse must still reach age 18 before submitting their application for citizenship.
Partial Exception to Five-Year Rule for Refugees
Those granted Residency based upon having come to the United States as a refugee can count all the time they spent in the U.S. after being granted refugee status towards the five years necessary before they are eligible to apply for Naturalization.
Partial Exception to Five-Year Rule for People Granted Asylum (Asylees)
Those granted Residency based upon asylum in the United States can count the one year of time as an asylee towards the five years necessary before they are eligible to apply for Naturalization.
Good to know...