US Citizenship by Marriage

Obtaining US citizenship by marriage is a little different than becoming a naturalized citizen based solely on permanent residence. If you meet the requirements, your marriage makes it possible for you to apply to become a US citizen in less time.

The Waiting Period

Most people applying to become a naturalized US citizen must wait for five years after becoming a lawful permanent resident (after getting a green card). About 90% of applicants have to be a resident of the states for five years before they become eligible to apply for naturalization. However, married lawful permanent residents (married green card holders) can become eligible to apply after only three years if they meet the eligibility requirements set by the USCIS.

There are restrictions on who can apply after just three years. Not all married green card holders will meet them, and so often a married green card holder will have to wait out the five years.

Three Years to Citizenship — Are You Eligible?

You are eligible to apply for US citizenship based on marriage if you meet the following requirements of the USCIS:

  • You are currently married to a US citizen

  • You live with a US citizen

  • You have been married to the same US citizen for the past three years

  • You have lived with the same US citizen for the past three years

  • Your spouse has been a US citizen for the entire past three years

  • You have continually resided in the US as a lawful resident for the past three years (except for trip allowances)

  • You have not left the country for a period of more than six months on a trip outside the US

  • You have been "physically present" in the US for at least the past 18 months

  • You have resided in your state or district for at least the past three months

"How I Prepared for My
Marriage Based Green Card Interview"

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Applying for Citizenship

If you meet these requirements, you can apply to become a US citizen two years earlier than other green card holders. The outcome of your application will also rely on your meeting all qualifications for moral character, attachment to the Constitution, and your passing the required examinations.

Know, however, that if you or your spouse served in the Armed services there may be some exceptions to the residency requirements, and you should check into these before you disqualify yourself based on length of residence.

The benefit of US citizenship by marriage is that the process may be expedited. You will still need to complete all other processing, applications, and procedures, but you can enjoy the benefits of citizenship earlier based on your commitment to your spouse and family.

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