I married an American citizen and received my Green Card. How long should I wait to apply for citizenship?


The marriage of an immigrant with an American citizen is a situation that many of us have probably lived or are about to live. After this, the application for permanent legal residence comes, and once we obtain it, we will want to know how we can apply to citizenship.

Generally, the requirements to become a United States citizen are:

  • The applicant has been a legal permanent resident for five years (or three years for spouses of United States citizens)
  • The applicant is 18 years old.
  • The applicant is of good moral character.
  • The applicant can speak, read and write English.
  • The applicant must pass an exam on US history and government.
  • The applicant has been physically present in the US at least half the time required.
  • The applicant has legally maintained permanent residence continuously.
  • The applicant swears loyalty to the US through an oath of fidelity.

(Note: Younger children of United States naturalization applicants may also be eligible and included in a naturalization application, under certain circumstances.)

Just as we must meet certain requirements, marriage must also do so. Regardless of the venue, the marriage must be legal, which is checked with an official document (religious or civil). In addition, it must be a marriage in good faith. It is necessary that both parties are present at the wedding, since usually no marriages are allowed by proxy. Finally, those who marry must be single before getting married. If the marriage is celebrated in the United States, we must comply with the laws that govern the state in which the wedding took place.

For those who have already obtained their Green Card, the requirements they must meet are the following:

  • Have had the Green Card for at least 3 years.
  • Have lived in a marriage union with the same US citizen spouse during that time.
  • Meet all other eligibility requirements under this section.

There is a possibility that spouses of US citizens employed abroad are eligible for naturalization, regardless of whether they meet the minimum time required as permanent residents. In this case, the person must demonstrate that he or she will leave abroad immediately after his or her naturalization with the intention of residing in the United States as soon as his or her spouse terminates his or her employment abroad.

It should be clarified that, in order to obtain citizenship after only 3 years of becoming a permanent resident, it is necessary to keep married to a US citizen otherwise, if the marital relationship is dissolved, it is necessary to fulfill 5 years with the status of legal permanent resident to be able to apply for the citizenship. Exceptions to this rule occur due to spousal abuse; in that case, when the abused spouse of a citizen separates, he can apply for citizenship through the VAWA program just three years after receiving permanent residence.