What Are The Exceptions For Citizenship Before The 3 Year Mark?
The final stage of the US immigration process is the Naturalization and Oath Ceremony. This is the step that we all look forward to not only because we finally become US citizens but because we will no longer have to prove ourselves and our marriages to the USCIS!
The USCIS allows immigrants that came to the United States on family-based visas to apply for naturalization 3 years from the date on their original green card. Many people mistaken this rule and think it means 3 years from the date of their marriage, which is not the case.
Of course it is natural to want to speed this process up because to be honest, it is a very long journey to get to the Oath Ceremony. However, the 3-year rule is actually the quickest way to getting US citizenship (unless one of your parents have US citizenship) so there really is no reason to try to rush it.
USCIS does not make any exceptions when it comes to the 3-year rule if you are still married to your original petitioner (the US citizen). Now, if you are no longer married to the original petitioner you may be surprised to learn that you are ineligible for the 3-year rule and must wait 5 years like everyone else that has immigrated on a non-family-based visa.
Do I Need To Be In The United States For The Entire 3 or 5 Years?
The good news is that the USCIS is not forcing you to stay inside the United States for the entire duration. You are free to vacation where ever you want on your green card but you just have to make sure that you are in the US at least 6 months out of a 12 month period.
The problems begin when you stay overseas for 6 months or more and establish a presence there by getting a job or renting an apartment.
You probably want to avoid this because when you apply for the N-400 for Naturalization you will need to show that you made the United States your current residence. So make sure you have plenty of ties to the U.S. if you are going to be traveling for an extended period of time.
You May Be Found To Have Abandoned Your Permanent Resident Status If You:
Move to another country with the intent to live there permanently
- Remain outside of the United States for more than 1 year without obtaining a reentry permit or returning resident visa. (In some cases any length of absence from the United States may be considered, even if less than 1 year)
- Remain outside of the United States for more than 2 years after issuance of a reentry permit without obtaining a returning resident visa.
- Fail to file income tax returns while living outside of the United States for any period
Declare yourself a “non-immigrant” on your tax returns
To be cautious we recommend only being out of the United States for less than 6 months at a time. Make sure to file your tax returns and be a good resident (avoid being arrested and getting a felony). This should help you when you apply for the N-400 US citizenship application.