Under certain circumstances, a lawful permanent may apply for naturalization after only three years versus the requisite five years that is normally required. In order to qualify, the applicant must demonstrate that he/she has been a green card holder for at least three years and been married and living with a US Citizen spouse for at least three years. The policy manual refers to this requirement as the marital union requirement. In this climate, where adjudicators have been scrupulously examining everything on a micro level, satisfying these criteria can be problematic, especially when the couple are not physically together.
If a couple is separated due to marital issues, a three-year marital union case may not be viable. However, couples are not always apart due to discord. In some cases, the separation may not be something that either partner desires, and fortunately, US immigration policy not only recognizes this but carves out a limited exception. USCIS terms this type of situation as “involuntary separation,” and this may occur in cases where a spouse has to travel for employment or serve in the armed forces-genuine circumstances that may necessitate the couple living apart despite their desire to stay together. According to the policy manual, an applicant will not be deemed ineligible under a marital union petition if the separation is due to circumstances beyond his or her control, such as
· Service in the US armed forces; or
· Required travel or relocation for employment.
Under the CFR, the language refers to service in the armed forces or “essential business or occupational demands.” One might venture to argue that schooling may under certain circumstances possibly fall under this rubric.
There are tremendous advantages to filing for naturalization under the three-year provision. Besides, of course, expediting one’s citizenship, the statutory period under consideration is three rather than five years. In some cases, where there are travel or even arrest issues, filing with a shorter statutory period can make a tremendous difference. Therefore, if you are a permanent resident who has been married to and living with a US spouse for at least three years, you may want to explore applying for citizenship early under this special provision.