Listed below are waivers, exceptions, and special cases to the normal waiting period of 5 years for minimum eligibility to apply for naturalization:
Family Members of U.S. Citizens:
Spouses of U.S. Citizens:
Typically, certain lawful permanent residents married to a U.S. citizen may file for naturalization after residing continuously in the United States for three years if immediately preceding the filing of the application if:
- the applicant has been married to and living in a valid marital union with the same U.S. citizen spouse for all three years
- the U.S. spouse has been a citizen for all three years and meets all physical presence and residence requirements; and
- the applicant meets all other naturalization requirements
There are also exceptions for lawful permanent residents married to U.S. citizens stationed or employed abroad. Some lawful permanent residents may not have to comply with the residence or physical presence requirements when the U.S. citizen spouse is employed by one of the following:
- The U.S. Government (including the U.S. Armed Forces);
- American research institutes recognized by the Attorney General;
- Recognized U.S. religious organizations;
- U.S. research institutions;
- An American firm engaged in the development of foreign trade and commerce of the United States; or
- Certain public international organizations involving the United States
Hmong Veterans' Naturalization Act of 2000:
There are several ways foreign-born children of U.S. citizens may obtain evidence of citizenship:
Generally, U.S. citizen parents of children born abroad may file a N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship. This form should be completed in accordance with the instructions provided and should be accompanied by 2 photographs of the child, copies of any documents that verify eligibility, and the required filing fee to be considered complete and ready to process.
Note: Children born abroad of U.S. citizen parents derive citizenship from their parents. The Certificate of Citizenship is merely a record of citizenship - it does not confer citizenship on an applicant.
Adopted children of citizen parents acquire citizenship. For adopted children, adoptive parents file an N-643 (NOT an N-600). However, adopted children over 18 must file an N-400.
Veterans of U.S. Armed Forces:
Certain applicants who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible to file for naturalization based on current or prior U.S. military service. Those applicants should file the N-400 Military Naturalization Packet.
Lawful Permanent Residents with Three Years U.S. Military Service:
An applicant who has served for three years in the U.S. military and who is a lawful permanent resident is excused from any specific period of required residence, period of residence in any specific place, or physical presence within the United States if an application for naturalization is filed while the applicant is still serving or within six months of an honorable discharge.
To be eligible for these exemptions, an applicant must:
- Have served honorably or separated under honorable conditions;
- Completed three years or more of military service;
- Be a legal permanent resident at the time of his or her examination on the application; or
- Establish good moral character if service was discontinuous or not honorable
Applicants who file for naturalization more than six months after termination of three years of service in the U.S. military may count any periods of honorable service as residence and physical presence in the United States.
Naturalization Applicants Who Have Served Honorably in Any Specified Period of Armed Conflict with Hostile Foreign Forces:
This is the only section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act that allows persons who have not been lawfully admitted for permanent residence to file their own application for naturalization. Any person who has served honorably during a qualifying time may file an application at any time in his or her life if, at the time of enlistment, reenlistment, extension of enlistment or induction, such person shall have been in the United States, the Canal Zone, American Samoa, or Swains Island, or on board a public vessel owned or operated by the United States for noncommercial service, whether or not he has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence.
An applicant who has served honorably during any of the following periods of conflict is entitled to certain considerations:
- World War I: 4/16/1917 to 11/11/1918
- World War II: 9/1/1939 to 12/31/1946
- Korean Conflict: 6/25/50 to 7/1/55
- Vietnam Conflict: 2/28/1961 to 10/15/1978
- Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm: 8/29/1990 to 4/11/1991
- Operation Enduring Freedom: 9/11/2001 to present
- Any other period which the President, by Executive Order, has designated as a period in which the Armed Forces of the United States are or were engaged in military operations involving armed conflict with hostile foreign forces.
Applicants who have served honorably during any of the above listed conflicts may apply for naturalization based on military service and no period of residence or specified period of physical presence within the United States or any State shall be required.