Written by Avvo Staff

How marriage affects US citizenship eligibility

If you are married to a US citizen, you may be eligible to apply for citizenship sooner.

Permanent residents, or green card holders, who have been married to a US citizen for at least 3 years, are eligible to apply for naturalization after just 3 years of permanent residency instead of 5. This is known as the marriage rule.

Learn exactly how marriage changes the eligibility requirements and what you'll need to include in your application to become a US citizen.

Differences in eligibility requirements
  Continuous residency Physical presence
Standard rule 5+ years 30+ months total out of the last 5 years
Marriage rule 3+ years 18+ months total out of the last 3 years

Keep in mind that your spouse must be a citizen for at least 3 years in order to qualify.

Other elibility requirements

You must also meet the standard eligibility requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have lived in your state for at least 3 months before applying.
  • Have not taken trips outside the US that have lasted longer than 6 months.
  • Do not leave the country at any point in the application process.
  • Are a person of good moral character.
  • Are able to pass the English and civics tests.

Documents to include with your application

If you meet these requirements, you can apply for citizenship using USCIS form N-400. In addition to the form, you’ll also need to include 2 passport-style photographs and information that proves you are married to a US citizen.

Unless otherwise noted, make sure to send copies of these documents. USCIS will not return any original documents. Here’s a checklist of what you’ll need to include:

1. Your current marriage certificate.

2. Evidence that your spouse has been a US citizen for the last 3 years. Send 1 of the following:

  • US birth certificate copy
  • Certificate of naturalization copy
  • Certificate of citizenship copy
  • US passport copy
  • Form FS-240 copy

3. If you or your spouse were previously married, send proof that the old marriage has ended (divorce decree, annulment, or death certificate).

4. Documents related to your current marriage. Send 1 of the following options:

  • Joint tax returns, bank accounts, leases, mortgages, birth certificates of any children.
  • IRS-certified copies of your filed income tax forms from the last 3 years.
  • An IRS tax return transcript for the last 3 years.

Note that USCIS will require a $680 application fee and other supporting documents, depending on your eligibility.

During the interview, the officer might ask you simple questions about your marriage, like how long you have been married or how you met. This is just to verify the information you included in your application. Your spouse will not need to attend the interview.

If you have any questions about your application or eligibility, talk to an immigration lawyer.

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