A holder of a U.S. green card, a.k.a a lawful permanent resident, can transition to U.S. citizenship after five years of receiving their permanent residence status.

However, there is an exception to the 5-year mark, with some people able to apply for U.S. citizenship only three years after holding a green card.

Can You Become a U.S. Citizen After 3 Years of Lawful Permanent Residence?

While generally, a lawful permanent resident would need to wait five years before they can apply for U.S. citizenship, there is an exception.

Some people can become eligible for U.S. citizenship after three years of continuous residence in the U.S., as long as they meet the requirements.

Requirements to Become a U.S. Citizen After 3 Years of Continuous Residence

To be eligible for citizenship only three years after receiving a green card, one must meet the following requirements:

  1. They must have been living in a marital union with their spouse for the previous three years.
  2. Their spouse must have been a U.S. citizen for the previous three years.
  3. They must have been a resident of the state where they are filing their citizenship application for at least three months prior to filing.
  4. They must have had their green card for three years at the time that immigration is ready to adjudicate their application.

What to Expect in the Naturalization Interview

While the requirements seem pretty straightforward, a marriage-based application for citizenship can be very difficult. This is because the immigration service will do a strict and careful background check to ensure that the applicant does, in fact, meet all the requirements.

The naturalization interview is going to feel just like one’s previous marriage-based green card interview. In particular, they will be looking for evidence of a marital union, including whether or not:

  • The spouses have filed their taxes together
  • They rent a home together
  • They own property together
  • They have joint bank accounts
  • They have joint liabilities
  • They have children together

Evidence of the above, if any, should be brought to the interview. And most importantly, the applicant must be prepared to talk about the specifics of these things.

Nowadays, the U.S. citizen spouse is no longer allowed to come to the interview with the applicant. But it would be helpful to have them sit and wait in the parking lot. That way, they can always come in and provide further evidence to the immigration officer when needed.