Filing for U.S. Citizenship with a Pending I-751 Petition

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Filing for U.S. Citizenship with a Pending I-751 Petition

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In recent years it often takes two years or more to receive a decision on an I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. Given these lengthy delays, many people wonder whether they can apply for citizenship with a pending I-751. Generally, the answer is yes!

Most permanent residents must meet several basic requirements to be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship, including the continuous residence requirement. Under this requirement, permanent residents are eligible to apply for citizenship after they have had their green card for 5 years, or after just 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen. Also, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will allow an applicant to file the application up to 90 days before the 5-year or 3-year mark. (Check out the USCIS Early Filing Calculator page to calculate your exact date of eligibility.)

The “clock” for this continuous residence begins the day a noncitizen is granted permanent residency, even if it was conditional permanent residency (i.e. residency obtained based on marriage to a U.S. citizen where the marriage is less than two years old on the date the green card is approved).

In most cases, noncitizens with the two-year conditional permanent residency must file the I-751 within the 90-day period before the card expires. Filing the I-751 automatically extends one’s status as a permanent resident while USCIS processes the petition. But it can take a long time to receive a decision! As of April 2024, the published average processing times at service centers range from 17 – 24 months. And for those filing an I-751 with a waiver of the joint filing requirement, the processing time is usually much longer. Because continuous residence for purposes of citizenship begins the day a noncitizen is granted permanent residency, whether it is conditional permanent residency or the “regular” residency, many people become eligible to apply for citizenship while the I-751 is still pending.

USCIS has a short section in the online policy manual addressing this very situation, explaining that the agency must adjudicate the I-751 before or at the same time as the N-400 (Application for Naturalization). In practice, this means that sometimes USCIS will approve an I-751 (without interview) after an individual files an N-400. Or, if the I-751 is still pending when an individual files the N-400 and is scheduled for their citizenship interview, USCIS will first review and adjudicate the I-751 at the interview, and then move on to the citizenship interview.

The process and timeline for the I-751 petition and the N-400 citizenship application can be confusing, so reach out to our office with any questions! We are here to guide you through the process and answer your questions.

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