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  • Writer's pictureParviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

You're a Green Card Holder Married to a U.S. Citizen. When Can You Naturalize?

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

Naturalization timelines can be tricky.

Article Outline:

If you are a legal permanent resident (“LPR”) i.e. a green card holder, you are eligible to naturalize (gain citizenship) five years after you have gained your LPR status or three years after you have gained LPR status if you are married to a U.S. citizen. This assumes you have met the other qualifications for naturalization such as continuous residence, physical presence and good moral character.

But what happens if you have been an LPR for three years during which time you have been married to your spouse and your spouse has just now naturalized to become a U.S. citizen (“USC”)?

In that case, can you apply for citizenship NOW after only three years of LPR status based on your marriage to a U.S. Citizen or do you have to wait?

The answer is that you have to wait.

3 Full years WHILE Married to U.S. Citizen

INA §319(a) [also codified as: 8 USC §1430] states that your U.S. citizens spouse has to have been a USC during the entire three year (minimum) period for which you have been an LPR, in order for you to apply for citizenship after three years of LPR status.

“…within the United States for at least three years, and during the three years immediately preceding the date of filing his application has been living in marital union with the citizen spouse (except in the case of a person who has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by a United States citizen spouse or parent), who has been a United States citizen during all of such period….”

Therefore, you would have to wait until either after three years of LPR status during which your spouse was a citizen for at least three years OR you have accrued five years of LPR status, whichever is shorter.

Other Important Naturalization Concerns

As a side note, during the time that you are waiting to become eligible to apply for naturalization, you need to be sure that you are maintaining both physical presence and continuous residence that are two separate concepts, which are often conflated, but are not the same!

If you have traveled and stayed outside of the United States for periods of time of six months or more, you may have broken the continuity of your residence in the United States, which may delay your ability to naturalize. However, you may qualify for the little known “Four year and One Day Rule.”…

Video Explainer

Request a Consultation with Malakouti Law

At Malakouti Law, we help people in situations like this naturalize safely and successfully. To find out how you can become a client, request a consultation here.

The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Each immigration case is particular and you should consult with a qualified, licensed immigration lawyer about your case before taking any steps.

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