Atty. James G. Beirne

THERE is no doubt that U.S. citizenship has many benefits and privileges. Some of these include the right to vote, and even run for public office. If you are a citizen, you can bring your family members into the country, and can apply for federal jobs. If you are currently a green card holder, you have likely wondered how long you have to wait in order to apply as a U.S. citizen. The general rule is that if you are a permanent or conditional resident, you must wait five years before you can apply for citizenship.

If however, you entered the U.S. as a conditional resident (perhaps through marriage of a U.S. citizen), your two years spent as a conditional resident in the U.S. count as permanent residence, provided that you do indeed become a permanent resident at the end of that time period.

If you want to become a U.S. citizen, it is important to note that there are several exceptions to the five-year rule:

Married to a U.S. Citizen

If you have been a permanent or conditional resident living with, and married to a U.S. citizen, you will only need to wait 3 years to apply for citizenship. You will need to stay married throughout your citizenship process in order for this exception to apply.

Early Application Rule

You are allowed to submit your application for citizenship 90 days prior to your five-year anniversary date. This exception helps with timing, as the application approval process can be lengthy. During this time, you will need to have your application approved, be tested on your knowledge of U.S. history and be interviewed.

Partial Exception for Refugees

If you came to the U.S. as a refugee, your time spent as a refugee can be applied as if you were a permanent resident.

Battered Spouses Exception

If you obtained your green card through marriage, but are in an abusive relationship, congress has created an exception to the three-year rule for spouses. You may leave your spouse and still apply for citizenship under the three-year rule.

Partial Exception to Asylees

If you obtained your green card because you were an asylee, one year of your time spent in the U.S. will count as if you were a permanent resident. Note however, that if you waited longer than one year to obtain your green card this will not be counted towards your permanent residency period.

Spouses of Citizens that Work Overseas

If your spouse has a job that requires both of you to live outside the country, you can still apply for citizenship without waiting 5 years. Anytime you receive permanent residence and are will to return to the U.S. you can apply.

With all of these exceptions, there are limitations, so it is important to speak with an experienced immigration lawyer who can help determine your best course of action. If you want to enjoy the freedom and benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen, it is important to speak with a skilled immigration lawyer from the Law Offices of James G. Beirne. We provide immigration services including family, fiancé and employment petitions, student and investor visas, visa extensions, naturalization and much more. Come in today and speak with an immigration lawyer from our team. We will provide you with sound legal guidance as well as a free consultation. We have three locations to serve you, Glendale (818) 552-4500, Cerritos (562) 865-4480 and West Covina (626) 262-4446. With your first appointment, you will receive a free consultation, so call today.


An active member of the State Bar of California and the State Bar of Nevada, James G. Beirne is also a member of the highly respected American Immigration Lawyers Association and Los Angeles County Bar Association Immigration Section. He is admitted to practice before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, all federal district courts in California and Nevada, California state courts, and Nevada state courts. Mr. Beirne has represented clients in numerous immigration cases. His offices are located at 520 E. Wilson Ave., Suite 110, Glendale, CA 91206, and 17215 Studebaker Rd., Suite 380, Cerritos, CA 90703, with telephone numbers (818) 552-4500; (562) 865-4480; and (866) 903-4522. He also has offices at 2640 E. Garvey Ave., Suite 104, West Covina 91791, with tel. no. (626) 262-4446.

(Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Results may vary depending on the facts of a particular case. We make no prediction, warranty or guarantee about the results of any case, nor do we assume any legal liability for the completeness of any information and its impact on the results of any case. Each case is different and results depend on the facts of each case. Consult with and retain counsel of your own choice if you need legal advice.)