Legal Separation after Green Card: Affect on Naturalization

Filing for naturalization, or becoming a U.S. citizen, is a process that many green card holders go through in order to gain the rights and privileges of being a U.S. citizen. However, the process can be more complicated for green card holder who are divorced or legally separated from their U.S. citizen spouse. In this blog post, we will discuss the eligibility requirements for naturalization and how a legal separation from a U.S. citizen spouse may affect the process.

To be eligible for naturalization, an individual must meet certain requirements. These include having a green card for a certain period of time, being able to pass a test on U.S. history and government, and being a person of good moral character. Additionally, applicants must show that they have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the required time and that they have maintained continuous residence.

While the normal waiting period between becoming a green card holder and filing citizenship is five year, for married couples there is an exception  that allows the applicant to apply for naturalization after just three years of being a permanent resident (green card holder), rather than the usual five years. To qualify for the exception, the applicant must be legally married to a U.S. citizen and the couple must have been living together during the required three years.

However, if a couple is legally separated and their relationship falls apart, the individual would have to wait for 5 years of being a permanent resident to be eligible for naturalization. A legal separation has the same effect as a divorce. The only major difference is that the applicant and the U.S. citizen spouse have not decided to terminate the marriage. Even an informal separation i.e. separation without a court order, would be interpreted as a break in the marital relationship.

In conclusion, it is possible for an individual who is separated from their U.S. citizen spouse to file for naturalization. However, the process may be more difficult, and it is important for the individual to understand the eligibility requirements and how a separation may affect their ability to meet those requirements. If you are in this situation, it is recommended that you consult with an immigration attorney to better understand your options and navigate the naturalization process.