By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.
3 years is preferable to 5 years!
To qualify for U.S. naturalization after only three years of residence in the U.S. under INA 319(a), do you have to have ALSO gotten your green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen?
This is a question I often get with green card holders who book consultations with us. The short answer is NO.
I explain why below.
Three Year Path to Naturalization Eligibility
Generally, five years of continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder (legal permanent resident) is necessary in order to apply for naturalization in the United States.
However, only three years residence in the United States is necessary before applying for naturalization, if the applicant has been married to a U.S. citizen for those three years. This is naturalization under INA 319(a). This shortened three year path to naturalization eligibility is a huge benefit. It allows people to naturalize more quickly and not have to worry about lengthy stays outside of the United States jeopardizing their green card.
Note: The U.S. citizen spouse must have been a U.S. citizen for the entire duration of the three years of continuous residence.
Does the Basis of the Green Card Matter?
But in order to qualify for this shortened naturalization path under INA 319(a), must the applicant also have gotten his green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen?
Fortunately, the answer is no.
A naturalization applicant can get his green card through other means such as through another family member, or through employment and still qualify for a three year path to naturalization eligibility if they are married to a U.S. citizen.
The statute (mentioned above) providing the eligibility is INA 319(a) and the regulation is 8 CFR 319.1(a)(3). Neither mention a requirement that the green card ALSO have been obtained through marriage to a U.S. citizen.
U.S. naturalization eligibility can be a tricky subject
Green card holders looking to naturalize can (and in most cases should) proceed to naturalization as soon as eligible. As always, make sure you meet all the eligibility criteria for U.S. naturalization - the continuous residence period is only one of the criteria!
A Sad Story of Delayed Naturalization
I recently had a consultation with a green card holder who wanted to naturalize in the United States. He had been a green card holder for over 13 years, and married to a U.S. citizen for the last six of those 13 years.
Even though he was married to a U.S. citizen, he got his green card through his child. When he started our consultation, he thought he only qualified U.S. naturalization after five years of continuous residence (under INA 316(a)(1)).
He had called us to ask about the 4 year and 1 day rule.
This was an issue for him because he had spent significant time outside of the United States in the last five years, and had broken continuous residence. Unfortunately, he believed he didn’t qualify for the three year path to naturalization because another lawyer told him a year ago that he must have gotten his green card through marriage in order to qualify.
I explained to him that he qualified for U.S. naturalization based on three years of marriage to a U.S. citizen so he didn’t have to wait to apply, and he wouldn’t have to rebut a presumption of having broken continuous residence.
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Each immigration and citizenship case is particular and you should consult with a qualified immigration and citizenship lawyer about your case before taking any steps. 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. Attorney marketing.