Your lawful permanent residence is a path to U.S. Citizenship. Generally, you may be able to apply for naturalization after 5 years of permanent residence, or after 3 years, if you are married to and living with a U.S. Citizen. Besides that, there are some general requirements for naturalization: continuous residence and physical presence in the U.S.; live for at least 3 months in the state or USCIS district where you will apply for naturalization; be a person of good moral character; demonstrate a knowledge of the English language, U.S. history and government, and attachment to the U.S. Constitution.
Exceptions to the continuous residence requirement
You can preserve your continuous residence for naturalization, even if you live outside the U.S. for longer than 1 year. For this, you will need to file Form N-470 and meet the following requirements:
- Being physically present and residing in the U.S. for an uninterrupted period, without any absences, for at least 1 year after your admission as LPR;
- You have qualifying employment in a specific job with the U.S. Government, private sector, or religious organization.
It is important to highlight that an approved N-470 does not exempt you from the physical presence requirements for naturalization, unless you are employed by, or under contract with the U.S. Government.
Also, even with an approved N-470, you are still required to apply for a reentry permit before leaving the U.S. for trips that are going to last longer than 1 year.
Continuous residence refers to the total time you have resided as a permanent resident in the U.S., and did not leave the U.S. for 6 months or more. As stated above, it is required 5 or 3 years as LPR for admission to citizenship. An absence of one year or more breaks the continuity of residence, and an absence of more than 6 months, but less than 1 year, may break the continuity of residence, unless you can prove otherwise. You may prove continuous residence by providing evidence of your continuous and unbroken ties in the US similar to the permanent residence maintenance requirements above. Even if you have a re-entry permit, the time spent outside the U.S will not count towards your continuous residence.
Once continuous residence is broken, you would have to maintain continuous residence for another 5 or 3 years as your situation requires, in order to be eligible for naturalization again.
Beyond the requirement of continuous residence, physical presence in the U.S. is also required. It refers to the total number of days that you were present in the U.S. You must be physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months during the last 5 years before you apply for naturalization. If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you must be present in the U.S. for at least 18 months during the last 3 years before you apply for naturalization.
If you have any questions, please contact our law firm for a consultation.
Zhang-Louie, Immigration Legal Counsel is a law firm in Malden, Massachusetts with multi-lingual language capabilities – Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish.