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When can an immigrant apply for citizenship for the earliest time?

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If you are a person seeking immigration to the United States, the ultimate goal is to become a U.S citizen. The United States government has provided specific rules for anyone who wishes to be a U.S citizen. However, there are specifics to each case.

If you want to know long the naturalization process will take to become a U.S. citizen, the most straightforward answer is five years as a green card holder or if you have a permanent resident status. This includes the 90 days during which you submit your N-400 citizenship application.

an immigrant holding a US flag in front of the crowd

However, the earliest date a person can be a naturalized U.S. citizen depends on many factors, such as satisfying the requirements for being physically present in the U.S., a period of continuous residence, residence in the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) district, and good moral character. If you have taken specific actions, such as having committed a crime or living outside the U.S., it could extend the time the naturalization process will take. To discuss these variables in detail, here are the critical items you should always keep in mind:

Ensure Spending the Minimum Continuous Time as a U.S. Resident Before You Apply For U.S. Citizenship


As mentioned earlier, you will ensure a more straightforward immigration status if you have a continuous residence in the U.S. as a green card holder for five years. However, if you are married and living with a U.S citizen, you can apply for U.S citizenship after three years. As per the Immigration Refugee Protection Act, People who entered the U.S. as refugees can count their years in refugee status before applying for U.S. citizenship as if they have been green card holders for the whole time.

Helpful article: Refugee Protection: Can Refugees Seek Asylum in the U.S.?

Ensure You Are Physically Present in the United States Before Applying for U.S Citizenship


As mentioned in the previous section, most people who apply for U.S citizenship must have a specific number of days when they are physically present in the United States before they are eligible to apply. The eligibility requirements call for, at least half the required period of continuous residence spent physically in the United States before applying.

There are instances when you may spend some time outside the United States for work or other reasons. Suppose those trips abroad don’t compromise your continuous residence or destroy your permanent resident status. In that case, you can still apply for U.S citizenship, provided that you wait until more than half of the required U.S residence is spent physically within the United States.

There are instances when you or your spouse have been working overseas since gaining a permanent resident status, or if you, your child, spouse, or parent was a member of the armed forces, or if you acquired your permanent resident card through VAWA, you may consult with your immigration law firm if the permanent residence requirement mentioned apply to you.

What is The Minimum Time I Should Be a Lawful Permanent Resident in a USCIS Service District or State Before I Apply For U.S Citizenship?


The length of lawful permanent residence in a specific state or a USCIS service district before they can apply for U.S citizenship is three months. That is, once you have just moved into a new state or USCIS service district, you need to wait until you live there for three months even if you satisfy the physical presence requirement in the United States.

If you intend to move to another state despite having spent three months in one set, you can still apply for U.S citizenship 90 days early. USCIS will schedule an interview wherever you have been living in the three months before the interview.

As with most cases, there are exceptions. If you have been living or working overseas since you have been a permanent resident, or if you got your permanent resident status through VAWA, you may consult with your immigration lawyer to see if the rules about residence in the USCIS service district or the state apply to you.

Always Maintain Enough Years with Good Moral Character Before Applying for U.S Citizenship

As a rule of thumb, the years required to maintain good moral character equal the years of continuous residence. If you have ever lied to a government agency or the immigration services or committed a crime, see an immigration lawyer to talk to before you apply. Several crimes will compromise your citizenship status and are serious enough to block the naturalization process. If you have a criminal record, consult with an immigration lawyer before applying for U.S citizenship.

Make Sure You Satisfy The Age Requirements Before Applying for U.S Citizenship


Unless you have served in the U.S. Armed Forces during a period of war or other hostilities, you need to be 18 or over before you can apply for U.S citizenship.

Takeaways: For a Hassle-Free Naturalization Process, You Can Count on Westover Law Firm


Westover Law Firm has served hundreds of clients, from persons who seek immigration to lawful permanent residents who want to be U.S citizens. No two cases are alike. We treat each case as unique with its own elements and story. As a result, Westover Law Group handles each case as exceptional because we believe no case should have a “one-process-fits-all” approach. Our attorney-client relationship is outstanding because we sit down personally with each client from the beginning, listen to your story, and ask appropriate questions to determine if, when, and how we can represent you. We also commit to protecting the sensitive or confidential information you share with us. We pride ourselves on our honest advice, realistic strategies, and excellent results because we are open and straightforward from the initial consultation. With such transparency, we can ensure a hassle-free naturalization application process.

To know more about our process, from initial consultation, representation, and appeals for your specific immigration case, or to ask other immigration questions about how to pay legal fees, message and data rates, immigrant employment laws, immigration benefits, and other specific matters, such as dual citizenship for foreign nationals, and other immigration matters, call us at (480) 284-4200 or fill out the contact form on this page.

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