Naturalization: Waivers, Exceptions, and Special Cases
This page, part of the Naturalization information, lists some of the Waivers, Exceptions and Special Cases to the normal waiting period of five (5) years before attaining minimum eligibility to apply for Naturalization.
Family Members of U.S. Citizens
Spouses of U.S. Citizens
Generally, 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:
- 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.
See also INA 319, INA 316
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.
Important 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 instead of an N-600. However, adopted children over 18 must file an N-400.
For answers to more specific questions regarding naturalization of children, please contact your local INS office.
See also INA 320, INA 321, INA 322
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. Such 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 - 4/16/17 to 11/11/18;
- World War II - 9/1/39 to 12/31/46;
- Korean Conflict - 6/25/50 to 7/1/55;
- Vietnam Conflict - 2/28/61 to 10/15/78;
- Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm - 8/29/90 to 4/11/91
- Operation Enduring Freedom – 9/11/01 to (open); or
- 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 aforementioned 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.
See also INA 328, INA 329
Grounds for Eligibility
The Immigration and Naturalization Service has other specific grounds for Naturalization. For additional information, please review the instructions on an N-400 Application for Naturalization and/or contact your local District Office.