Green card holders have the ability to apply for citizenship in the United States after living here for five years. Marrying a U.S. citizen, however, comes with a shortened time frame requirement of just three years. The stipulation for getting citizenship after marrying a U.S. citizen is that the couple must have been living in marital union for at least three continuous years, immediately preceding the green card application. Furthermore, the couple must continue to be married until the foreign spouse achieves naturalization. 

It is important to note that if the applicant leaves the U.S. for an extended length of time, that time will be formally subtracted out of their time in the country. Furthermore, if the couple gets divorced within those three years, the foreign national will be required to wait five years before applying.

The process for getting citizenship after marrying a United States citizen is quite involved. There are specific requirements, forms, fees, dates, and appointments that’ll need to be observed. Though the process is lengthy, and can span over the duration of three years, the end result will be extremely rewarding — becoming a citizen of the U.S. and being afforded such benefits.

Eligibility Requirements for the Process of Getting Citizenship After Marrying a U.S. Citizen

The spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident will be required to meet specific criteria in order to qualify for U.S. citizenship. Though there are additional eligibility requirements, for the purposes of this article, we give a cursory view of eight major prerequisites. They are as follows:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be an individual of good moral character
  • Currently a permanent resident (green card holder) through marriage with a U.S. citizen
  • Currently living in marital union with the U.S. citizen spouse — inside the U.S.
  • Have lived with the U.S. spouse for three years or more (known as the three-year rule) immediately preceding the application for naturalization
  • Be physically present in the U.S. 18 or more months (within the three years immediately preceding the application date)
  • Be able to read, write and speak English 
  • Have an understanding of U.S. history and its government

Detailed Process for Getting Citizenship After Marrying a U.S. Citizen

Here are the 10 main steps to becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen:

  1. Gather all of the supplemental documentation required for applying for U.S. citizenship and prepare to apply for naturalization
  2. Fill out an Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) and submit online, or by mail
  3. Pay fees: $640 for the application processing and $85 for the biometrics services 
  4. Await confirmation from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a biometrics appointment
  5. Attend the biometrics appointment
  6. Await confirmation from the USCIS for a naturalization interview
  7. Attend the naturalization interview
  8. Await confirmation from the USCIS for a naturalization oath ceremony
  9. Attend the naturalization oath of allegiance ceremony
  10. Receive a certificate of naturalization

Supplemental Documentation for Citizenship After Marrying a U.S. Citizen

Some naturalization applicants may choose to gather all of their supplemental documentation before they file their application. Others elect to gather only the documents required to accompany the application itself. Either is completely fine, however the applicant should double-check both the Naturalization Eligibility Worksheet and the Document Checklist before applying. In most cases, this saves valuable time, and ensures nothing gets missed.

Filing the Application for Citizenship After Marrying a U.S. Citizen

There are two ways to send in an N-400 form. One common way to do so is by filing the form and related documents online (though it is a necessary step to first create an account and log in on the USCIS accounts webpage). Otherwise, the second option would be to submit the N-400 and such documents to the appropriate Lockbox Facility or Service Center. Included in this step is the payment of the filing fees.

Required Filing Fees

When an applicant decides to file their N-400 online, he or she will need to also pay the associated fees online as well. 

Conversely, if the applicant chooses to file their N-400 by mail, they will need to pay the fees via a money order, personal check or cashier’s check, remembering to make it payable to the 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Otherwise, applicants have the option to pay the fees by using a credit card. In such situations, they will need to include an Authorization for Credit Card Transactions (Form G-1450). Ensuring to fill it out completely and place it on top of the application packet when doing so.

The location of where to send the N-400 packet and the associated fees depend simply on where the naturalization applicant lives at the time they file. The appropriate location and address can be found on the Direct Filing Addresses website.

It is worth mentioning here that unless the applicant is 75 years of age or older, he or she will need to pay both the filing fee and the biometric fee. Additionally, these associated fees must be paid 90 calendar days before the completion of the three-year continuous residence requirement.

After the application has been submitted and the fees have been paid, the USCIS will send the applicant a notification of such receipt. They will then schedule a biometrics appointment on behalf of the applicant. Therefore applicants will just need to keep checking for such correspondence, and make all arrangements necessary to attend the appointment prepared. 

The Biometrics Appointment

On the day of the biometrics appointment, the applicant will get their photo taken, a copy of their fingerprints taken and an electronic copy of their signature taken. Once the appointment is complete, the USCIS will send a notification with the time, date and place of the naturalization interview.

Naturalization Interview for Citizenship After Marrying a U.S. Citizen

During the naturalization interview with a USCIS officer, applicants will be asked questions relating not only to their application and background, but about whether their marriage is bona fide, and if the couple has been living in a genuine martial union. This is also when the naturalization applicant will be required to take an English and a civics test.

In normal circumstances, the USCIS officer will then indicate whether the petitioner’s application is approved, and whether the examination was passed, so there shouldn’t be any additional wait times for the final case status.

Upon passing the exam and the decision to approve the naturalization application, the USCIS will send another notification regarding the date and location of the naturalization ceremony. 

Naturalization Oath of Allegiance Ceremony

During the naturalization ceremony, the applicant will first relinquish their permanent resident card and then be asked questions regarding their activities since their naturalization interview. Finally, he or she will take an oath of allegiance to the United States, and receive their Certificate of Naturalization! This certificate will include a registration number, the beneficiary’s full name, marital status, place of residence, picture, and more.

For a more in-depth look at the process, the USCIS offers an easy-to-follow naturalization process guide which can be found on their website.

What Happens After the Process for Getting U.S. Citizenship

During this exciting time, the person who once was a foreign national is now a U.S. citizen. He or she is free to move freely, just as any citizen of the country can do. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits to becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen below.

Benefits of Getting U.S. Citizenship

Some of the major benefits of being granted citizenship after getting married to a U.S. citizen include (though are not limited to) the following:

  • No more needing to renew U.S. visas or a green card 
  • No more immigration filing fees
  • No more immigration interviews or appointments
  • No more limitations to the frequency and duration of traveling internationally
  • No more needing to request work authorization
  • No more worrying about the possibility of being deported (unless certain crimes are committed)
  • Being granted a U.S. passport, permitting travel to more than 180 countries
  • The ability for non-U.S.-born children to automatically become U.S. citizens as well
  • The ability to apply for and get jobs in the U.S.
  • The ability to vote in U.S. elections
  • The ability to receive federal financial assistance for college
  • The ability to retain U.S. citizenship for life

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the time frame for a green card holder married to a U.S. citizen to apply for citizenship?

Green card holders married to a U.S. citizen can apply for citizenship after three years of living in marital union with their U.S. citizen spouse. This is shorter than the five-year requirement for other green card holders.

What are the main steps involved in the naturalization process for the spouse of a U.S. citizen?

The main steps include gathering required documentation, filling out and submitting Form N-400, paying application fees, attending a biometrics appointment, going through a naturalization interview, and attending a naturalization oath of allegiance ceremony.

What are some of the benefits of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen after marrying a U.S. citizen?

Benefits include no longer needing to renew visas or green cards, freedom to travel internationally without restrictions, the ability to work without authorization, protection from deportation, the ability to vote in U.S. elections, and access to federal financial assistance for college.

Wrapping Up the Process of Getting Citizenship After Marrying a U.S. Citizen

The path to U.S. citizenship for green card holders married to U.S. citizens involves a comprehensive process, including meeting specific eligibility requirements, completing various forms, attending appointments, and ultimately taking an oath of allegiance.

Despite its complexity, the process offers substantial rewards, such as enhanced legal rights, increased job opportunities, and the ability to participate fully in civic life. For those committed to seeing it through, the journey from green card holder to U.S. citizen is both a challenging and profoundly rewarding experience, opening the door to numerous benefits and opportunities.