When is the right time to apply for U.S. citizenship? While there is no
rule when you must apply there is a requirement that you must fulfill
US residency and physical presence requirements before applying. Normally
permanent resident must wait to apply for citizenship or naturalization
until you have permanently resided and been physically present in the
U.S. for at least five years. You should check your permanent resident
card (green card) to find the exact date you were approved as a permanent
resident and make sure you wait the full five years to avoid any complications.
Conditional residents follow slightly different guidelines. In most cases,
conditional means that you got your residence through a spouse or through
an investor visa. The time you spend as a conditional resident count as
When should I submit my application?
Though you are required to wait until five years have passed, you are allowed
to file your naturalization application within 90 days before the five-year
date has arrived.
The U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services will not be able to adjudicate the application until you have
fully met the resident requirements.
It is important to keep in mind that you may face longer time restrictions
if you do not meet all the requirements. For example, you must have spent
at least half of your required years in the U.S., not traveling back to
your home country the entire time. You also must not have spent more than
a year outside of the U.S. among other requirements such as reading, writing,
and speaking English.
What if I am married to a U.S. citizen?
If you recently married and are living with a U.S. citizen, have been a
permanent or conditional resident, and can provide proof that you qualify,
you may apply for citizenship within just three years. You can still qualify
for this rule even if you did not get your green card through the marriage.
You must remain married to your spouse, who is a U.S. citizen, throughout
the citizenship process to be eligible for the 3-year rule. If you separate
or divorce or you choose to stop living with your spouse, or even if your
spouse dies prior to the interview, the three-year rule will no longer apply.
There are a few other exceptions to the five-year timeframe. These include
exceptions for certain military personnel.