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Naturalization, the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, requires applicants to demonstrate commitment to the United States through continuous residence. This requirement ensures that potential citizens have formed a stable life in the U.S., contributing to and integrating into American society.

Shobhana Kasturi, an experienced immigration lawyer in Aurora, emphasizes the significance of this requirement to applicants seeking citizenship.

Continuous Residence Requirements

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) meticulously details the criteria for continuous residence, a fundamental aspect of the naturalization process.

  • 5 Years of Continuous Residence and 30 Months of Physical Presence: The primary rule stipulates that applicants typically need to have resided continuously within the United States for at least 5 years prior to their application for naturalization. This continuous residence implies that the applicant has established a life in the U.S. and maintained a consistent physical presence. Moreover, out of these 5 years, applicants are required to have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months (which amounts to two and a half years).
  • 3 Years of Continuous Residence and 18 Months of Physical Presence for Spouses of U.S. Citizens: In the unique situation of spouses of U.S. citizens, USCIS offers a more lenient requirement. In such cases, the applicant must have 3 years of continuous residence in the United States. This concession reflects the recognition of the shared life and residency with a U.S. citizen spouse. Alongside this, the applicant must ensure they have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 18 months (one and a half years) out of these 3 years.

These continuous residence requirements underscore the importance the U.S. government places on a potential citizen’s physical and community presence in the country. They are not just legal formalities but are reflective of an individual’s integration into the American way of life.

Breaks in Continuous Residence

Maintaining continuous residence is a crucial requirement for naturalization in the United States. However, life circumstances may lead to breaks in this continuous residence, which can have significant implications for your eligibility for naturalization.

The USCIS categorizes these breaks based on their duration:

  • More Than 6 Months of Absence But Less Than 1 Year: When an applicant is absent from the U.S. for more than 6 months but less than 1 year, it triggers a presumption that they have broken their continuous residence. This presumption, however, is not definitive. It can be challenged and overturned by presenting convincing evidence that demonstrates the applicant’s intention to maintain their U.S. residence during their absence. This evidence can include ties to the United States such as a maintained home, family connections, and ongoing employment in the U.S.
  • 1 Year of Absence or More: When an absence extends to 1 year or more, it is generally considered by USCIS as having disrupted the continuity of residence. This situation is more serious as it usually requires the applicant to re-establish continuous residence from scratch upon their return to the U.S. This re-establishment involves meeting all the criteria of continuous residence afresh, essentially resetting the clock on the applicant’s path to naturalization.

Preservation of Residence for Naturalization

There are provisions within the law that allow for the preservation of residence for naturalization purposes under specific circumstances. This is particularly relevant for individuals who are employed abroad by U.S. organizations, including government entities.

To take advantage of this provision, eligible applicants must proactively file Form N-470, seeking to preserve their residence for naturalization purposes. This application is a formal request to have their time abroad recognized as continuous residence within the United States for their naturalization process.

If this application is approved, a significant benefit ensues: the time spent abroad will not disrupt the applicant’s continuous residence requirement for naturalization. Essentially, this means that despite physically being outside the U.S., the period is considered as if the applicant were residing in the United States, maintaining their eligibility for naturalization without interruption.

Consult an Immigration Lawyer in Aurora Regarding Your Continuous Residence

At Kasturi Law, LLC, we are dedicated to helping applicants navigate these complexities. Whether you are seeking guidance on meeting continuous residence requirements or facing other immigration challenges, our Aurora, IL immigration attorney is here to assist. Contact us today for a consultation and ensure your journey toward U.S. citizenship is smooth and successful.


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