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When Can A Green Card Holder Apply For Naturalization?

Q. I have had my Permanent Residence for just over 3 years. I was told that I could apply for Naturalization now. Is this true?

A. It depends on how you received your permanent residence.

  • If you received your permanent residence based on marriage to a US Citizen then you may apply for Naturalization now. This assumes the following: you are currently married to and living with a U.S. Citizen; and you have been married to and living with that same U.S. Citizen for the past 3 years; and your spouse has been a U.S. Citizen for the past 3 years.
  • If you are an asylee then you must wait 4 years after your approval of your permanent residence (there are special rules for refugees )
  • If you received your green card in any other manner the wait will be 5 years.
  • There are special rules for current and former military members and spouses of military members who died during active duty in the US Armed Forces which are beyond the scope of this article. If this is your situation you should speak to an Immigration Attorney.

Your Permanent Residency begins on the date you were granted your permanent residence status. Look at your permanent residence card. It will state the date on your card.

Continuous Residency Requirement

There are special rules which apply if you have taken trips outside of the United States of 6 months or longer. In these cases you may have disrupted your “continuous residence” requirement (unless you can prove otherwise) and you will not be eligible for naturalization. There are, however, exceptions to this rule, which are beyond the scope of this article. If this is your situation, you may still be eligible to apply for naturalization. However, you should speak to an Immigration Attorney to review the facts and circumstances of your case.

Physical Presence Requirement

If your application is based on being a permanent resident for 3 years then you must prove that you were physically present in the US for 18 months within the three year time period before applying for naturalization.

If your application is based on being a permanent resident for 5 years then you must prove that you were physically present in the United States for 30 months within the five year time period before applying for naturalization.

You must have resided in the district or state in which you are applying for citizenship for the last 3 months. Students may apply in the district either where they go to school or where their family lives (as long as they are still financially dependent on their parents).

According to USCIS, you may file for your naturalization 90 calendar days before you complete your permanent residence requirement if your eligibility for naturalization is based upon being a : permanent resident for at least 5 years; or a permanent resident for at least 3 years if you are married to a United States Citizen. Please note that you have to have lived with your spouse in the United States for 3 full years before applying for naturalization under the 3 year exception. So if you entered with a conditional or permanent green card then you have to be present in the United States for 3 full years before applying for naturalization and you cannot file 90 days early.

There are also many other eligibility requirements which you must satisfy, besides the requirements listed above, in order for you to qualify to become a naturalized United State Citizen. As you can not only be denied your citizenship but also lose your permanent residency should problems arise in your case, it is always a good idea to consult with an Immigration Attorney before you apply for naturalization.

My office would be happy to talk to you about your Immigration case. We have offices in Fairfield, Sacramento, Roseville, Stockton, Oakland, Auburn, and Reno. We handle cases throughout California, the United States and the World. You may reach us toll free at 888-801-6558

Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is not legal advice but general information only. This article is only a very basic introduction to this topic. You should seek a competent Immigration Attorney to review your specific facts and circumstances before proceeding with your case.

When Can A Green Card Holder Apply For Naturalization?
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