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Conditional Residents May Seek Naturalization While I-751 is Pending
by Cyrus D. Mehta

A spouse of a US citizen normally obtains conditional residency for a 2-year period if the green card was issued within two years of the marriage. During the 90-day period prior to the expiration of the conditional residency period, the US citizen spouse and foreign spouse have to apply for removal of the conditions on residence by filing a Form I-751 petition.

It usually takes about two years for the Immigration and Naturalization Service Vermont Service Center (INS VSC) to approve the I-751. In the meantime, the spouse of the US citizen is reluctant to apply for naturalization although he or she is eligible to file for such an application two years nine months after the initial grant of the lawful permanent status. Due to the enormous delays in processing the I-751, the foreign spouse loses time for purposes of filing a naturalization application.

In a recent exchange of correspondence, Paul E. Novak, Jr., Director of the INS VSC, advised that it is permissible for a conditional resident to apply for naturalization while a Form I-751 application is pending with the INS VSC. Mr. Novak was responding to an inquiry from a New York attorney.

As a result, conditional resident spouses can apply when they become eligible for citizenship, which is 2 years and 9 months from the date of receiving the conditional residency. This is the case even if the I-751 application remains pending.

What if the spouse’s naturalization interview comes up before the I-751 application is approved?

Based on Mr. Novak’s statement, the citizenship application cannot be denied on the basis that the I-751 is pending. It is most likely that the naturalization officer will put the application in abeyance until the I-751 application is approved. Conditional resident spouses can therefore apply for citizenship in a timely manner, and hopefully have their I-751 applications approved before the citizenship interview.

About The Author

Cyrus D. Mehta, a graduate of Cambridge University and Columbia Law School, practices immigration law in New York City. He is a trustee of the American Immigration Law Foundation and recipient of the 1997 Joseph Minsky Young Lawyers Award. He is also Chair of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. He frequently lectures on various immigration subjects at legal seminars, workshops and universities and may be contacted at 212-425-0555 or