Question: I have been a permanent resident for two years. Can I apply for naturalization now, or do I have to wait for a certain amount of time before I qualify?
Answer: You cannot apply for naturalization yet. You must be a permanent resident for a certain number of years and be in “continuous residence” before you may apply for naturalization. To be eligible for naturalization, you must satisfy the following conditions:
- You must be at least 18 years old;
- You must be a person of good moral character;
- You must have a basic knowledge of U.S. government and history;
- You must be able to read, write, and speak basic English;
- You must have a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the U.S.; and
- Either (a) you have been a lawful permanent resident for five years, or (b) you have been a lawful permanent resident for three years, during which you have been and continue to be married to your U.S. citizen spouse.
What type of evidence do I need to prove that I have been married to my U.S. citizen spouse for the last three years?
If you are applying for naturalization on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen for three years, you must provide the following:
- Evidence that your spouse is a U.S. citizen;
- Your marriage certificate;
- Proof that you and your spouse have terminated any prior marriages; and
- Proof of your marital relationship for the past three years, for example joint tax returns, joint bank accounts, joint leases, and birth certificates of children.
What is the difference between “continuous residence” and “physical presence”?
“Continuous residence” means that you have not left the U.S. for an extended period of time. If you left the U.S. for more than one year during a single trip, you have failed to maintain continuous residence.
If you left the U.S. for more than six months but less than one year during a single trip, you might have failed to maintain continuous residence. You can submit evidence to USCIS to show that even though you left the U.S. for more than six months, you maintained your residence in the U.S.
“Physical Presence” means that you have actually been in the U.S. for a certain number of months required for your naturalization.
- If you are applying for naturalization after five years, you must have been in the U.S. for at least 30 months in the past five years; and
- If you are applying for naturalization after three years, you must have been in the U.S. for at least 18 months in the past three years.
All trips taken outside of the U.S., even short one- or two-day trips must be counted towards this physical presence requirement.
How can I study for the civics and written exam?
USCIS provides educational study material and resources to help you prepare for the English and Civics portions of the citizenship test: uscis.gov/citizenship/study-materials-and-resources
My 10-year green card expires in two months. Do I have to renew my green card if I am applying for naturalization?
Yes. It is important that you renew your permanent resident card (“green card”) before it expires. Without a valid green card, it may be difficult for you to prove that you are a permanent resident. Your green card serves as a valid identification document and proof that you are eligible to live and work in the United States while your application for naturalization remains pending with USCIS.
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ImmiFree.Law is The Harrison Law Firm P.C.’s online platform to make the family immigration and naturalization process more efficient, accurate, and affordable. Baya Harrison, Esq. is an attorney licensed in New York, Florida, and California. Attorney Harrison has helped numerous individuals and families navigate the U.S. immigration process, specifically family-based petitions and naturalization.