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In the age of Trump I have seen a dramatic increase in the number of permanent resident clients seeking to apply for naturalized citizenship. It is important to know what the basic time requirements for these applications are.

When can you apply?

The Basic 5 Year Requirement. With a few exceptions, one must normally be a permanent resident (LPR) for 5 years before applying for naturalization. (Actually, one can apply five years less three months under the regulations, because the immigration service recognizes that processing takes time.) So, 57 months after the date one becomes a permanent resident as listed on your green card.

For Permanent Residents Granted Asylum, 4 Years. A person granted asylum (an "asylee") may apply to become a permanent resident one year after a grant of asylum. By regulation, an asylee can add the year spent in asylum status before becoming a permanent resident to the five year total, so that asylees may apply for naturalization four years after obtaining permanent resident status less three months (45 months after the date one becomes a permanent resident as listed in your green card).

For Permanent Residents Married to US Citizens, 3 Years. LPR's who are married to US citizens may apply for naturalization three years less three months after becoming permanent residents, so long as they have continuously resided in "marital union" with his or her US citizen spouse. So, 33 months after the date one becomes a permanent resident as listed on your green card.

Important note: All applicants in the above categories must be at least 18 years old in order to apply for naturalization.

For members of the military: Since 9/11/2001 the United States is considered to be in a "period of hostilities" for naturalization purposes. A foreign citizen on active duty during a "period of hostilities" has no waiting period to apply for naturalization, and there is no "minimum age." An applicant can apply while still on active duty or after being honorably discharged.

Continuous Residence. In addition to the foregoing, an applicant for naturalization needs to needs to have "continuously resided" in the United States (no absences from the United States greater than six months other than on military service for the relevant waiting periods).

Physical presence for at least half the period of continuous residence. Generally speaking, one must be physically presentin the United States for at least half the time of "continuous residence" in the United States. For example, an LPR who was waiting the five years to apply for naturalization must have been physically present in the US for 30 of the 60 months during the five years.

Three months presence in the district in which one is applying. This may seem like a "no-brainer" but I have actually seen naturalization applications denied because the applicant could not establish that his or her residence was in the district (in New Jersey the "District" is the entire state) during the required three months. In other words, be sure you have "put down roots" in your present residence location for at least three months before applying for naturalization.

Additional posts will deal with but you even need to apply for naturalization because you have "derived" citizenship through your parents, and other extremely important criteria like "good moral character" and the absence of criminal history that might make applying for naturalization a bad idea.


Brian D. O'Neill Attorney at Law, LLC

Immigration, Employment and Business Law

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