June 14, 2010: Three Years or Five Years Until Naturalization?

Three Years or Five Years Until Naturalization?

I’ve been a legal resident for 3 years, through the marriage to a US Citizen; however, we got divorced after my second year of residency. I do have conditions removed from my residency.

Is there a way to obtain my citizenship before the 5 years requirement? Are there any exceptions to that rule?
— Anonymous

Generally, immigration law does not allow a person to apply for citizenship until five years after the date lawful permanent residency was granted. In some very limited instances, a person may be eligible to apply three years after permanent residency was granted.

For example, a person who is presently married to and residing with a United States citizen for the past three years, and that spouse has been a United States citizen for at least three years, is eligible to apply after being a permanent resident for three years. If a person cannot meet that requirement, then the person must wait for five years past the grant of residency.

If a person obtained their residency through a Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) Self-petition, s/he may be eligible to apply for citizenship in three years. If a person is honorably serving in the United States military, s/he may apply for United States citizenship while in the military after at least one year of service or within six months of discharge. Remember, you must still meet all of the other requirements for Naturalization, such as being a person of good moral character, have knowledge of English and Civics, and meet the physical presence and continuous residence requirements. Before applying for Naturalization, it may be wise to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to review your eligibility for citizenship.

Unfortunately, there are countless instances where a person applies for citizenship, but for one reason or another, their application is denied and they are placed in removal proceedings because they have violated an immigration law that renders them removable from the United States. So be sure you are qualified before you file!

Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys