Can I Apply For U.S. Citizenship After 3 Years Of Green Card?

A man and a little girl holding passports, suggesting a family trip or international journey.
Picture of Shawn Sedaghat, Esq.

Shawn Sedaghat, Esq.

Are you marking the calendar, counting down until you can apply for U.S. citizenship?

Under certain circumstances, you can obtain your citizenship in 3 years but it is very important to understand the naturalization requirements. The spouse must have continuously resided in the United States after becoming a lawful permanent resident (LPR) for statutory period of at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the naturalization application and must have lived in marital union with his or her citizen spouse for at least those 3 years.

Our blog post will guide you step by step through this exciting journey from permanent residency to full-fledged citizenship.

Get ready — your American dream could be just around the corner!

Key Takeaways

  • Transitioning from a lawful permanent resident to a U.S. citizen is a pivotal step that comes with several crucial considerations. For those eligible under specific conditions, such as marriage to a U.S. citizen, this journey can commence after three years of holding a green card. Below are the key takeaways to guide you through this transformative process:

  • Eligibility for Spouses of U.S. Citizens: If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you may apply for U.S. citizenship after three years of obtaining your green card, provided you have lived in continuous marital union with your citizen spouse for the entirety of those three years.

  • Continuous Residence Requirement: You must have continuously resided in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least three years immediately preceding your application, ensuring your commitment and attachment to the U.S.

  • Physical Presence Mandate: A minimum physical presence of 18 months (548 days) within the U.S. is required during the three-year period prior to filing your application. This criterion ensures that you have substantial ties to the United States.

  • Special Provisions for Military Members: Members of the U.S. Armed Forces may be eligible for expedited citizenship under more lenient rules, acknowledging their service and dedication to the country.

  • Application Process Essentials: The journey to citizenship involves several key steps:

  • Filing Form N-400: The Application for Naturalization is the primary document that initiates the naturalization process.

  • Biometrics Appointment: Following the application, you will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, a photograph, and a signature.

  • Citizenship Interview and Exam: You will undergo an interview with a USCIS officer, who will assess your application and test your knowledge of U.S. history, government (civics), and English proficiency.

Benefits of U.S. Citizenship:

Upon successful completion of the naturalization process, you will enjoy several significant benefits, including but not limited to:

  • No Need to Renew Your Green Card: As a U.S. citizen, the periodic renewal and associated fees of maintaining a green card are no longer necessary.

  • Voting Rights: One of the most profound privileges of citizenship is the ability to vote in federal (and most local) elections, giving you a voice in the democratic process.

  • Family Sponsorship: U.S. citizens have the ability to sponsor immediate relatives for green cards, facilitating family reunification and support.

  • Understanding and Meeting the Requirements: It is crucial to fully understand and meet all the eligibility requirements for naturalization, including proving good moral character and adhering to the principles of the U.S. Constitution.

  • Seek Professional Guidance: Considering the complexities of immigration law and the potential for changes in policies, consulting with an experienced immigration attorney can provide clarity, ensure compliance, and navigate any challenges in the naturalization process.

  • Embarking on the path to U.S. citizenship is a deeply personal and legally significant endeavor. By comprehensively understanding the requirements, preparing thoroughly for each step of the process, and utilizing available resources and professional advice, you can successfully transition from a green card holder to a proud U.S. citizen, fully embracing the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship.

Understanding the Basics of U. S. Citizenship and Green Card

A green card gives someone the status of a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. This allows individuals to reside and work there legally. To become a U.S. citizen through naturalization, you must have had your green card for a certain period.

Usually, it’s five years, but some people can apply after just three years.

That three-year rule might apply if you’re married to a citizen parent of a U.S. citizen. You must be with your spouse and live in America for at least 18 months out of those three years.

Being over 18 and having a good moral character are essential requirements for becoming a U.S. citizen.

You can submit your application up to 90 days before your third year as a permanent resident status.

Watch the video

Requirements for Applying for U. S. Citizenship After 3 Years of Green Card

After three years of holding a green card, you may apply for U.S. citizenship, providing you have the other legal requirements. To help you with the process, you may contact an experienced immigration attorney.

Watch the video

Marriage to a U.S. Citizen for Three Years

If you’re married to a U.S. citizen, you can apply for citizenship with a green card after three years. But to do so, you must have continuously resided in the United States after becoming a lawful permanent resident (LPR) for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the naturalization application and must have lived in marital union with his or her citizen spouse for at least those 3 years, and also been physically present for at least 548 days ( 18 months) in the 3 years immediately before the filing.

You can start your application 90 days before you hit the three-year mark of living in the U.S. This rule helps those ready to take the next step early.

When applying, show that you’ve been physically present in the country for 548 days and haven’t taken long trips abroad that could harm your continuous residence status. The concepts of physical presence and continuous residence are different concepts, and each has different requirements to fulfill. It’s essential to keep track of travel dates and prove that the United States has been your home during these past three years.

Process of Applying for Naturalization

Becoming a U.S. citizen requires following a step-by-step process. This procedure includes submitting an application and taking an oath.

While it may seem the citizenship requirements are complicated, clear guidelines are available to help applicants confidently submit their paperwork. This way, they can prepare for what lies ahead on their journey towards becoming an American citizen.

Naturalization Application

To apply for U.S. citizenship, you’ll start with a naturalization application. You need to fill out Form N-400 and send it to the government agency USCIS. This is your first step in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.

You need to make sure all your answers are true and correct, which was also a very distinct lawful permanent residence requirement.

Next, gather all the needed documents. These may be proof of your recent marriage, to a U.S. citizen, tax forms, and evidence of your green card status for three years or more.

After submitting your application, they will check it and follow up with you about the next steps. More often than not, the review entails looking at your responses to the responses you provided for your permanent residence application.

Biometrics Appointment

You need to schedule a biometrics appointment during your citizenship application process. USCIS will send you a notice with the time, date, and location. They will take your fingerprints, photo, and signature.

These steps help confirm your identity and run necessary background checks.

Your biometrics are crucial for verifying your application for U.S. citizenship after three years of having a green card. Make sure to attend this appointment; it’s one of several critical steps toward becoming an American citizen.

Bring identification documents like your green card or driver’s license to the biometrics appointment. This ensures everything goes smoothly on the road to obtaining citizenship.

Citizenship Interview and Exam

Get ready for the citizenship interview and exam. This step is a big deal on your path to becoming a U.S. citizen. USCIS will call you for an interview after they check your application and background.

At the interview, an officer will ask about specific things mentioned in your application. They want to make sure all of your answers are true.

You’ll also take a civics test to show you know about U.S. history and government—unless you qualify for an exception due to age, long-term residence, or if certain medical conditions apply.

A reading and writing test in English is part of it, too, although some exemptions exist based on age, time as a green card holder, or disability. Study hard! It’s important because this shows how well you understand what being American means.

After passing these tests and proving continuous residence requirements were met, along with physical presence and residency requirements inside the country during relevant periods according to USCIS guidelines—you’re almost there! Just be honest throughout the process; that truthfulness forms part of showing good moral character as required by the immigration services.

Oath of Allegiance

The Oath of Allegiance is your final step to becoming a U.S. citizen. You promise to support and defend the U.S. Constitution and laws. You also agree to serve the country when needed.

Taking this oath means you fully commit to being an American, with all its rights and responsibilities.

Benefits of Becoming a U. S. Citizen

Becoming a citizen of the United States has lots of perks and responsibilities. It lets you fully join in the country’s democratic processes and allows you to bring your family members over to the U.S.

You get many more rights than you do as a lawful permanent resident status here. These rights are symbolic and practical, meaning you’re now an essential part of American society.

This achievement is a big deal. Finally, you’re now a fully-fledged member of the country. It is important for you to look at dual states citizenship and immigration issues if you are a native of certain other countries or have citizenship elsewhere.

Voting Rights

Once you become a U.S. citizen, one key benefit is the right to vote in federal elections. This gives you a voice in choosing the leaders who make laws and policies that affect your life.

In most cases, green card holders can’t vote, so citizenship opens up this vital part of American democracy for you.

As a new voter, you’ll also help decide on local officials. These people run your city or town government and make decisions close to home. Your vote matters – it’s your chance to stand up for your beliefs and support changes that improve your community and country.

No More Immigration Forms

After you become a U.S. citizen, say goodbye to green card renewals and additional immigration paperwork. You won’t need to fill out forms for visa extensions or permanent resident card updates anymore.

Also, your status in the United States is secure. This means less stress about deadlines and no more fees for those regular applications to maintain residency by keeping in touch with the USCIS office like permanent residents do, as indicated by immigration law.

Your new citizenship frees up time and energy. Enjoy living in the U.S. without worrying about immigration forms again, as you did as a lawful permanent resident.

Now, you can focus on other essential parts of your life, like family, work, or travel within and outside the country without restrictions that apply to permanent residents and non-citizens.

Ability to Sponsor Relatives Seeking Immigration Status

Being a U.S. citizen lets you help your family come to America. You can sponsor certain relatives for their green cards.

Once they have a green card through your sponsorship, they, too, can look forward to calling America home.

There’s good news if you’re married to an American service member. The U.S. government makes it easier for military spouses to get their citizenship and immigration services even if they’re abroad. The rules are different for service families because of their sacrifices.

It’s part of saying thank you and helping them stay together as a family across borders.

A diverse group of individuals proudly holding American flags in a room

Commonly Asked Questions About Applying for U. S. Citizenship After 3 Years of Green Card

If you’re married to a U.S. citizen, you can apply for citizenship with a green card after three years. But to do so, you must have continuously resided in the United States after becoming a lawful permanent resident (LPR) for at least 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the naturalization application and must have lived in marital union with his or her citizen spouse for at least those 3 years, and also been physically present for at least 548 days ( 18 months) in the 3 years immediately before the filing.

Another common question is about the physical presence requirement as a legal permanent resident. You must have been in the country for at least 18 months of those three years.

People also want to know how travel affects their eligibility in consideration of the ideal time physically spent on American soil.

Ensure you haven’t spent more than a year outside the United States during this time, too. Always keep track of your travel dates carefully!

Some wonder about taxes when applying for citizenship. You should have filed income tax returns for the past three years showing your status as a resident of the U.S., which supports your application and not be delinquent with your taxes.

Lastly, applicants are curious about possible reasons their applications might be denied. Committing crimes like illegal gambling or failing to pay child support could cause problems with your application process—avoid these activities! If an experienced immigration attorney has ever advised you during legal proceedings, mentioning them in your naturalization paperwork could help support your case, too.

Remember, USCIS updates its policy manual regularly; always check it or consult an immigration lawyer before submitting any forms or documents related to citizenship applications.



Now you know applying for United States citizenship anytime after three years as a lawful permanent resident or with a green card is possible.

U.S. citizenship is one of the best immigration benefits of your time physically present in the country. Remember, this option also mainly suits those married to U.S. citizens. Always check the complete citizenship requirements list and ensure you meet them all.

Get set with your application by gathering documents early on. Embrace the process—soon, you may call yourself an American citizen!

FAQs: Transitioning to U.S. Citizenship After 3 Years of Green Card Status

1. Can I apply for U.S. citizenship if I've been a Green Card holder for less than five years?

Yes, you can apply for U.S. citizenship after three years if you are married to and living with a U.S. citizen spouse during this period. This is an exception to the general rule requiring five years of permanent residency.

2. What does "continuous residence" mean for applying for citizenship?

Continuous residence means you must live in the United States as a lawful permanent resident without any long trips abroad (usually, a trip of six months or more could disrupt your continuous residence). If you’re applying based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, you must have continuously resided in the U.S. for at least three years before filing your application.

3. How do I prove my physical presence in the U.S. for the required period?

Physical presence refers to the actual time you have spent in the U.S. For those applying under the three-year rule through marriage, you must be physically present in the U.S. for at least 18 months (548 days) of those three years. You can prove this with documents such as employment records, school records, or travel records.

4. What if my spouse and I have spent significant time outside the U.S. during our marriage?

Spending significant time outside the U.S. can affect your eligibility for applying for citizenship under the three-year rule. It’s important to maintain a domicile in the U.S. and limit absences to ensure they do not disrupt your continuous residence or physical presence requirements.

5. Can military service members or their spouses apply for U.S. citizenship earlier?

Yes, U.S. military service members and, in certain cases, their spouses may be eligible for expedited citizenship through special provisions. These provisions can waive or reduce residency and physical presence requirements in recognition of their service.

6. What are the benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen through naturalization?

As a U.S. citizen, you gain the right to vote in federal elections, obtain a U.S. passport, bring family members to the U.S., apply for federal jobs requiring citizenship, and enjoy protection from deportation. Citizenship also means you no longer need to renew your Green Card, simplifying your legal status and residency in the U.S.

Scroll to Top