When a US Citizen Passes Away

What if I apply for citizenship after three years and my US citizen spouse passes away?

We had this situation arise recently and I was really surprised when I did the research to find out what the rule is.

We have a couple that we represented a long time ago. We helped them get a marriage based green card. This is actually one of the first same-sex couples in St. Louis to get a green card based on marriage. We were very fond of both of these clients. When the whole case was over, they had taken us out to lunch and we became good friends over the years. This was about three years ago.

Recently, our non-US citizen spouse, the foreign national with the green card, was getting ready to apply for citizenship. Around the time that he became eligible, which is three years after getting his green card … If you’re married to a US citizen and you got your green card based on marriage, if you have that, then you can apply after three years. As apposed to the general rule, which is that you have to wait five years of having your green card to apply for citizenship. We began to prepare the paperwork.

At that point, the US citizen passed away. We were very sad. We were very sad that he died and that our foreign national client was left alone. He, too, is very sad. It’s been a tough situation.

We thought, without doing the research, that he’d be able to go ahead and apply for naturalization after three years because the marriage had ended through no fault of his own. He loved his husband. There was really no reason, we thought, that the rule shouldn’t apply. But when I did the research, lo and behold, it is the rule that the US citizen has to be alive up until the time that the person actually naturalizes.

There’s a similar rule when you apply based on marriage and the marriage ends in divorce. If you apply after three years, but you get divorced before the oath ceremony or at any time during the process, you can’t get your citizenship. You have to wait the full five years.

Now, luckily in this case, we had filed already and we didn’t lose the filing fee. But we were surprised to find out that a foreign national who’s married to a US citizen and has that US citizen spouse pass away, is ineligible to apply after three years. The marriage has to be ongoing at the time that the person gets naturalized. We were very surprised by this. We were sad to tell our client. It’s all good. He’s going to wait the whole five years and he’ll be fine once he gets it, but we were surprised that he wasn’t going to be able to get his citizenship at this time.

If you have any questions about when to apply for citizenship, whether you should apply after three or five years, or if your marriage is going through rocky times, or if your spouse passes away, make sure to give us a call at 314-961-8200. We’d be happy to explain it all to you, walk you through it. We hope this video helped. If you did like this video, please click liked. And also, please make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you get updates whenever we post new videos. Thanks a lot. Have a good day.