When Can a Green Card Holder Apply for U.S. Citizenship?

Many green card holders hope to eventually become U.S. citizens. While green card holders do enjoy many of the same rights of U.S. citizens, there are several important ones that green card holders do not. For instance, U.S. citizens have the right to live in the country indefinitely as well as the right to vote in U.S. elections.

When a Green Card Harder Can Apply for U.S. Citizenship

The most common path for a green card holder, otherwise known as a “permanent resident,” to U.S. citizenship means that he or she will be able to apply for citizenship, or “naturalization,” in a minimum of 5 years. After holding a green card for at least 5 years, you are eligible for U.S. citizenship if you meet other requirements such as:

  • Being 18 years or older
  • File Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
  • Living within the state, or USCIS district, that has jurisdiction over your place of residence for a minimum of 3 months prior to the date of filing your application
  • Having continuous U.S. residence as a green card holder for a minimum of 5 years prior to filing your application
  • Being physically present in the U.S. for a minimum of 30 months out of the 5 years immediately prior to the date of filing your application
  • Being able to read, write, and speak English
  • Having basic knowledge of U.S. civics
  • Being a person of good moral character and one committed to upholding the principles established by the U.S. Constitution

While it is most common for a U.S. permanent resident to have to wait 5 years until applying for U.S. citizenship, there are some cases where a green card holder may apply for U.S. citizenship after three years. There are a few major exceptions to the 5-year waiting period. For instance, if you are married to a U.S. citizen, you may qualify to apply for citizenship after only 3 years. To qualify, you must be currently married to a U.S. citizen and living in the U.S. Additionally, you must have been married to the same U.S. citizen for the past three years and living in the U.S. It is also required that your spouse have been a U.S. citizen for the past three years.

Another major exception to the 5-year waiting period pertains to refugees. If you are a refugee, you need only wait five years from the date of your entry into the U.S. as opposed to the date you were approved for permanent residency. It is expected that you apply for a green card after one year from entering the U.S. as a refugee. Should you wait longer than one year, your time as a refugee will be counted towards the 5-year time frame as if it were spent as a lawful permanent resident.

Immigration Law Attorneys

If you should have any questions or need more information about the ways in which the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Laws may impact you, your family, your friends or your colleagues, please contact the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Lawyers at the NPZ Law Group – VISASERVE – U.S. Immigration and Nationality Lawyers by e-mailing us at info@visaserve.com or by calling us at 201-670-0006 (x107). You can also visit our Law Firm’s website at www.visaserve.com