Once you’ve got a green card showing your status as a lawful permanent resident, it’s only natural to wonder how long it will take to gain citizenship. So we get that question frequently. And we hate to give the standard lawyer answer of “it depends,” but that really is the truth.
A lot of factors can have an impact on the time it takes to get your citizenship. So let’s take a look at the factors that affect the timeline for citizenship eligibility. Some of these factors are based on definitive rules, while others are more circumstantial and subject to change.
Rules on Citizenship Timing
There are a couple of rules that are very solid. If you are married to a United States citizen, you only need to have had your green card for three years before you can become a citizen. 90 days before you become eligible, when you have held your green card for two years and nine months, you can apply for citizenship.
If you got your green card through employment or you are no longer married to a U.S. citizen, then you are not eligible for citizenship until you’ve held your green card for at least five years. However, those who got a green card through VAWA—the Violence Against Women Act—then you can apply for citizenship under the three year rule rather than waiting five years. It is not necessary to be married to the abusive person to qualify for the three year waiting period.
Factors That Can Change the Eligibility Period
Some situations can extend this time period. If you got put on probation for criminal activity, for instance, the three or five year waiting period does not begin until after probation has ended.
Another factor that can delay the process substantially is when someone with a green card leaves the U.S. for more than a year without applying for a re-entry permit to preserve their residence. That’s a huge problem because it allows your green card to expire and you also have to reestablish your residence before you can apply for citizenship. You have to wait two years and one day if you’re a conditional permanent resident or you’re applying under the three-year rule or you have to wait four years and one day if you’re applying under the five year rule.
Get Advice to Preserve Your Earliest Eligibility for Citizenship
Many things can affect your ability to apply for citizenship and making certain mistakes can delay the process for years. If you are interested in applying, contact the team at American Dream® Law Office to schedule a strategy session. We can help you avoid mistakes and take advantage of the best options to gain citizenship without unnecessary delays.