An applicant for U.S. citizenship must meet basic residence and physical presence requirements. A noncitizen must be a lawful permanent resident (LPR) in order to qualify for naturalization. Certain non-residents who served in the U.S. military, however, are an exception and may qualify for U.S. citizenship.
The noncitizen must have continuously resided in the U.S. as an LPR for five years immediately prior to applying for naturalization. Only three years of continuous residence is required for spouses of U.S. citizens. The U.S. citizen spouse through whom the noncitizen obtained his/her LPR status must have been a U.S. citizen during that period. Also, they must have been living in marital union for three years. If the marriage terminates in less than three years, the noncitizen will have to complete the period of five years. Applicants may file their N400 application for naturalization 90 days early or 3 months before the end of the required continuous residence period.
Spouses and children granted LPR status because of battering and extreme cruelty under VAWA are also required only three years of continuous residence. Three years of living in marital union is not required.
The continuous residence requirement does not mean that the noncitizen has to be physically present in the U.S. throughout the whole period. Short visits outside the U.S. for less than six months are acceptable and will not affect continuous residence.
Absence from the U.S. for six months but less than one year raises a rebuttable presumption that U.S. residence has been abandoned. This will be considered as a disruption of continuous residence and may result in a denial unless the applicant demonstrates lack of intent to abandon residence. Evidence which may establish continuity of residence include not terminating employment in the U.S., presence of immediate family in U.S., retention of full access to U.S. home and not obtaining employment abroad.
Absence from the U.S. for one year or more will interrupt the continuity of residence. The five/three year period will have to run anew when the noncitizen returns to the U.S. However, the applicant does not have to wait for the full period to file the N400 application for naturalization. Spouses of U.S. citizens can file after two years and one day while other LPRs can file after four years and one day.
Absence from the U.S. for one year or more may be excused in the case of employees abroad working for certain U.S. government agencies and U.S. companies. The noncitizens must seek permission to preserve their residency for naturalization purposes by filing Form N-470.
Aside from the continuous residence requirement, the noncitizen must also have been physically present in the U.S. for one half of the required residence period. Applicant must be in the U.S. for an aggregate period of not less than 30 months for the five-year period, and 18 months for the three-year period. Employees abroad working for the U.S. government and firms must also satisfy this requirement.
The applicant must reside within the state or within the USCIS district where the application is filed for three months immediately prior to the filing of the application. Continuous residence in the U.S. is required after application is filed.