Applying for Naturalization while your I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence is still pending with USCIS
When I first started practicing as an immigration lawyer in 1995, the processing time for I-751 petitions was about 3-6 months. Today, the processing time is 18-24 months, which is why USCIS issues a 24-month automatic extension of status on the I-751 Receipt Notice. With such an extreme delay, that means that most I-751 petitioners will have been permanent residents for about 4 years by the time their conditions on their status are removed. And this naturally leads many petitioners to wonder whether they can make use of this accumulated time as a permanent resident and apply it to an N-400 Application for Naturalization. The short answer is, YES, is it possible to apply for Naturalization while your I-751 Petition is still pending IF you meet the requirements to naturalize.
To qualify for naturalization, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Possess a green card (permanent resident) for a minimum of five years (or 3 years if you are married to and living with a U.S. citizen)
- Have lived in the same state or immigration district for at least 3 months before applying
- Have continuous residence in the United States for at least 5 years (or 3 years if you are married to and living with a U.S. citizen)
- Have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years (or 18 months out of the 3 years if you are married to and living with a U.S. citizen)
- Be able to read, write, and speak English (unless you qualify for an exception)
- Have a good moral character
- Understand U.S. history and government (civics)
- Be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States
If you meet these requirements and your I-751 petition is still pending, you may be able to file for naturalization. However, it is important to note that your I-751 petition must be approved before you can take the Oath of Allegiance and become a U.S. citizen.
As a practical matter, most applicants who qualify for naturalization while their I-751 is pending will be applying for naturalization based upon having been a permanent resident who is married to and living with a U.S. citizen for at least 3 years (rather than having been a permanent resident for 5 years … because by that point, USCIS has already made a decision on most I-751’s). In my experience, what happens in most cases is that USCIS consolidates and combines the I-751 petition with the N-400 petition and schedules a single Interview. This means that one of the central issues that the USCIS officer will be exploring at the Interview is the good-faith nature of the marriage, as this is a requirement to qualify for approval of both the I-751 and the N-400. This allows you to combine your evidence and resources and present everything at one time.
If you need assistance with your pending I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence or you would like help with your N-400 Application for Naturalization, contact U.S. Immigration Lawyer Sean D. Hummel to schedule a consultation.