Naturalization with a pending Petition to Remove Conditions (I-751)

Today, we’re delving into a topic of great interest for many conditional permanent residents: the prospect of filing for naturalization while the I-751 petition is still pending. We’ll explore the ins and outs of this process, including what conditional permanent residency means, the typical processing time for the I-751 form, and why it might be advantageous to file for naturalization during this period.

Let’s begin with a clear understanding of conditional permanent residence. When a foreign national marries a U.S. citizen and applies for a green card, they are initially granted conditional permanent residency if the marriage is less than two years old. This ‘conditional’ status lasts for two years.

To remove the conditions on their residence, conditional permanent residents must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, during the 90 days before their second anniversary as a conditional resident. This is a necessary step to establish that the marital relationship was not entered into for the purpose of evading immigration laws.

Processing times for the Form I-751 can be quite lengthy and unpredictable, often taking anywhere from 18 to 24 months, but it could extend even longer. During this period, the conditional resident’s status remains in a sort of limbo, as they wait for the approval to become a full-fledged permanent resident.

Interestingly, despite the pending status of the I-751, a conditional permanent resident can opt to file an Application for Naturalization if they meet the eligibility criteria for naturalization. Generally, one can file for naturalization after being a permanent resident for three years if they have been married to and living with their U.S. citizen spouse for those three years. Here’s where it gets intriguing.

Filing for naturalization while the I-751 is pending could be beneficial because USCIS often schedules one combined interview for both the I-751 and the N-400. In such cases, the processing time for the N-400, which is typically shorter than for the I-751, often applies. This strategic maneuver can potentially expedite the entire process, guiding the applicant more swiftly toward their ultimate goal of citizenship.

However, let’s not forget some crucial points. Even though this route might shorten the path to citizenship, the applicant must still meet all the requirements for citizenship, including the physical presence requirement and continuous residence requirement. It’s crucial to understand that the marital relationship must remain valid – not only up until the approval of the I-751 but until the applicant is sworn in as a U.S. citizen.

In summary, while it’s a slightly complex path to navigate, conditional permanent residents who meet the eligibility requirements for naturalization could find an advantage in filing the N-400 while their I-751 is pending. Remember, each case is unique, and immigration laws can be complex. Therefore, always consult with a qualified immigration attorney before making any decisions.