Three Year Rule For Naturalization After Being Married to a U.S. Citizen

Foreigners married to a U.S. citizen can enjoy a rare benefit: Instead of having to wait five years as a lawful permanent resident before filing an application for naturalization, they need to hold their U.S. Green Card for only three years. The stipulation is that they remain married to and are living with a U.S. citizen for three entire years.

Fulfilling the Three Year Condition for Naturalization as a Lawful Permanent Resident

Every foreign national with a lawful permanent resident status must be able to satisfactorily meet a specific eligibility criteria before they apply for U.S. citizenship. This requirement includes:

  • Submitting a Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
  • The applicant may have been a permanent resident for at least a certain period of time before submitting an N-400. For most people, that’s five years from the date of becoming a lawful permanent resident.
  • Each individual must be a person of good moral character
  • The foreigner must be able to speak, read and write English fluently and
  • Pass a test in U.S. history and government amongst other requirements.

It is important to note the condition within the U.S. immigration law that you must be married to and are living with a U.S. citizen for at least three years. Say, for example you and your U.S. citizen spouse have separated, divorced or merely started living in different states though you remained legally married, then you no longer qualify for U.S. citizenship.

By the same token, if your spouse was a lawful permanent resident at the beginning of those three years and most recently obtained her U.S. citizenship through naturalization, then you must wait until your spouse has been a citizen for a full three years before making use of this exception.

Meeting the Physical Presence Stipulation for U.S. Naturalization

Another of the requirements for U.S. citizenship through naturalization is that the foreigner may have spent half of the required time as a permanent resident actually living within the United States. For people who must spend five years as a lawful permanent resident before applying means that they must fulfill a physical presence requirement of two and a half years, or thirty months.

In maintaining the three-year rule, however, the amount of time that an immigrant must be physically present in the U.S. Before applying to naturalize is one half of three years, or 18 months.

Calculating Years as a Conditional Resident Toward the Three-Year Requirement

Anyone who was married for less than two years when they first got approved for a green card, were probably granted a conditional resident status instead of lawful permanent residence. Conditional residence expires after two years if the beneficiary does not take steps to renew it. When renewing a conditional green card the applicant must file a Form I-751 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the 90 days before the expiration date in order to change from a conditional status to lawful permanent residence.

Granted that you were successfully approved for lawful permanent residency from a conditional resident status your two years as a conditional resident will count as if it were permanent residence. There’s a chance you would be able to apply for U.S. citizenship three years from the original approval date of the conditional residence. If there are any questions or concerns about U.S. citizenship eligibility or the application process, get in touch with your nearest immigration attorney.

Contacting an Immigration Attorney

When applying for U.S. citizenship through naturalization it is best to ask an immigration attorney to help you so as to avoid bumps and hurdles throughout the process. Call Gambacorta Law Office today at 847 433 9303.