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When Exactly to Apply for Citizenship

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When should I apply for naturalization? Hi, I'm Jim Hacking, Immigration Lawyer, practicing law throughout the United States at our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. My man, [Muhammad 00:00:11], wanted to know, during our online chat the other day, whether or not the best time to apply for citizenship is on the first day that you're eligible. Or if you should wait the full time. So what am I talking about? Well, when you have your green card, you can apply for citizenship five years later. You have to have five years of lawful permanent resident status before you can apply for naturalization, unless you're married to a US citizen. If you've been married to a US citizen for three years, and you've had your green card for three years, you can apply for citizenship at that three year mark.

Now, interestingly, on that rule, you don't have to necessarily have obtained your lawful permanent resident status through that spouse. Let's say you got an employment based green card, and then you married a US citizen. And then, you were married a solid three years to that US citizen, even though you would normally have to wait five years, because you're married to a US citizen, you can take advantage of that rule. But what Muhammad was really wondering about is this other rule that says that you can apply 90 days early. So if you're applying on the marriage based route, you could apply really at two years and nine months and one day after the start date on your green card. Or if you're not going the marriage route, you can do it two years, nine months... I'm sorry, four years, nine months and one day after the start date on your green card. So in those scenarios, sometimes you want to file on the 90 day early, and sometimes, you don't want to file the 90 days early.

And when would you not want to file and take advantage of those 90 days, like Muhammad's asking? To me, the biggest thing is if you've had a lot of travel outside the United States, if it's a close call. Remember, if you're applying for citizenship, you have to have been in the United States for half the time plus one day, in lawful permanent residence status. So if you're playing on the three-year rule, you have to have been in the United States for one year, six months and one day. And if you're playing on the five-year rule, you have to have been in the United States for two years, six months and one day. So you don't want to cut it too close.

If by applying during those early 90 days, the first 90 days before you actually hit the five-year mark or the three-year mark, if that's going to make it even closer for you to establish that you've been in the United States for a sufficient amount of time, then you're going to want to wait until there's no question. So a lot of times we have clients who are waiting for the bad days out of the country to go away and the good days to have men in the country, so that they have enough time. You don't want it to be close. You don't want to be too clever. You don't want to be too cute. You want to have that application solid. And you don't want to be sitting at your naturalization interview, stressing out and sweating over whether or not you filed a few days too early.

So a lot of times we'll tell people, just wait the full five years, just wait the full three years, and then apply for citizenship. So hopefully, that answers my man, Muhammad's, question. And if it didn't, he can give us a call. Or you can give us a call if you're thinking about applying for naturalization, 314-961-8200. You can email us at [email protected]. You can join us in our Facebook group, which is called Immigrant Home. And if you like this video, we ask that you please share it out on social, and you subscribe to our YouTube channel, so that you get updates whenever we make videos, just like this one. Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

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