Continuous Presence Requirements: Are You Really on Track for Naturalization?

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If you are applying for naturalization, you may know that you are required to live continuously in the United States for a period of time before you apply. But you may not know all of the specifics of the continuous residence requirement.

Here, we’ll discuss the continuous residence requirement for those with LDR status who are applying for naturalization. In most cases, this requirement is five years. However, there are certain exceptions where the time period of continuous residence is shorter.

And always remember that you can speak to an immigration attorney about the process. The requirements and exemptions for naturalization may be confusing. That’s why it’s always a good idea to consult attorney.

A Quick Overview Of Naturalization

Before we discuss the continuous presence requirement, let’s go through an overview of the naturalization process.

What exactly is naturalization? It refers to the process where a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) becomes a citizen of the United States. This process can involve a lot of supporting documentation that proves you have lived in the United States for long enough. You’ll also have to take a general knowledge and English test.

If you want to submit an application for naturalization, you’ll have to fill out Form-400. Once you submit your application, you can expect the whole process to take about a year, although times can vary widely by case.

Continuous Residence: The Basics

Continuous residence means that you have established your primary place of residence within the United States. This residence can be any sort of house or apartment. You just have to be able to prove that it is your main residence. This residence must also be permanent, meaning commuters from Mexico or Canada will not satisfy the requirement for continuous residence.

Residence isn’t based on intent. That means that you have to actually demonstrate that a dwelling really is your main residence. Some applicants think that they have met the requirement just because they own a property in the United States. But you also have to show that this is your primary residence.

Proving Continuous Residence

Proving that a residence is your primary place of residence can actually be quite difficult. That’s because people move around a lot, often leaving the country for trips and then returning to the United States.

However, there are some documents that may be useful in proving that you have been a continuous resident of the United States. One important document will be your Permanent Resident Card.

But you’ll also want to use other documents to boost your case. These may include tax returns, property tax records, proof of employment, receipts from rent payments, and university transcripts, and credit card statements.

None of these documents alone will likely be enough to prove that you lived continuously in the United States. But together they can help make it clear that you spent most of your time within the United States.

Trips That Interrupt Continuous Residence

Even if you live in the United States for five years, you may not meet the requirement for continuous residence. That’s because absences or interruptions can potentially impact the status of your continuous residence.

How long do you have to be absent before it impacts your continuous residence? The answer varies case by case.

Absences From The United States Of Less Than Three Months

If you are absent from the United States for multiple periods less than six months, you may not meet the continuous residence requirement. USCIS can claim that your primary residence is not in the United States.

How long can these periods be before your continuous residence status is threatened? It varies by case. If you take many short trips but can still clearly show that your main residence is in the United States, USCIS may grant you continued residence.

But if you take multiple longer trips of 1-3 months, and spend a large portion of your time outside of the United States, it’s possible USCIS will not accept your application for naturalization.

This varies widely case by case, and you may still be able to prove that your main residence was maintained in the United States. But it’s crucial that you have documentation to prove this. If you are worried that your trips abroad could impact your naturalization application, you should speak to an immigration attorney.

Absences From The United States That Are Greater Than Six Months

In the case of any absence greater than six months, USCIS will consider this an interruption of your continuous residence. Your residence will be considered broken unless you can show that you continued to maintain your residence in the United States.

If you were absent for any period greater than six months but less than a year, you can still show that you did not abandon your residence. Some common cases where you continuous residence may be maintained include:

  • You did not accept a job in another country
  • Your immediate family continued to live in the United States
  • You maintained a full residence in the United States
  • You were still employed in the United States

Even if you interrupt your continuous residence, that does not mean that you have to abandon your LDR status. There have been multiple cases where an LDR left the country for a period greater than six months and was still able to meet the continuous residence requirement.

For example, in Liz vs Chernoff, a student who filed for naturalization but then left to study abroad in Canada was still said to have met the continuous residence requirement.

It’s important to remember, however, that these exceptions are often considered on a case by case basis. Just because another applicant received an exemption for their continuous residence requirement does not mean that you will also get one.

If you plan on leaving the United States for a period of greater than six months but less than a year, you need to make sure you have all of the proper documentation to prove that you maintained some form of residence in the United States. It’s advised that you speak to an immigration attorney before your trip so that you can ensure

There are other exceptions where you may still be able to maintain your continuous residence with an absence greater than six months.

Speak to a skilled immigration attorney if you are worried about meeting the continuous residence requirement. They can help you make sure that any trips you are taking won’t interrupt the naturalization process.

Absences From The United States That Are Greater Than A Year

In the case of an absence that is longer than one year, the law is much clearer. If you leave the United States for any period greater than a year, your continuous residence will be interrupted, and your naturalization application will be denied.

There are a few specific cases where exceptions have been made to this. However, these are rare, and you should not expect to maintain your LPR status if you have left the country for more than one year. Some exceptions include certain employment arrangements. There may also be exemptions for the spouses of members of the armed forces.

How Long Do You Have To Wait To Reapply?

If your application is denied because you failed to meet the continuous residence requirement, you can still apply again. You’ll just have to wait. Any application that is denied because of an absence of greater than a year can be resubmitted four years and a day after you reenter the country.

Speak To An Experienced Immigration Attorney

If you plan on applying for naturalization, it’s important that you are aware of the various requirements for continuous residence and physical presence. There are exceptions to the requirements, so if you plan on working or living with family abroad, you should speak to an immigration attorney.

They can help you make sure that you are meeting all of the requirements for naturalization, as well as help you prepare any additional paperwork or documentation that may be needed.

At Monument Immigration, our only focus is immigration law. We can prepare your application within two business days, ensuring that you never miss a deadline.

If you have questions about your application, or want more information on the naturalization process, don’t hesitate to contact us. We offer free case evaluations, and can walk you through any concerns you may have about your case.