Can I apply for U.S. Citizenship?

When can you apply for US Citizenship (N-400)?

An issue that often arises when clients begin preparing to file their N-400 (Application for US Citizenship) is regarding physical presence and continuous residence in the United States.  This is a common issue for green card holders (LPRs) working abroad, or those who are forced to live outside the US for longer periods of time because of family reasons or other personal commitments. Some have obtained a Reentry Permit (Form I-131) before exiting the U.S for a period of more than 6 months.  A reentry permit does not preserve continuous residence for purposes of citizenship.

Physical Presence and Continuous Residence Requirements

A basic overview of the regulatory requirements with regard to physical presence and continuous residence is as follows. An applicant for naturalization must have resided continuously in the United States after his or her lawful permanent resident (LPR) admission for at least five years prior to filing the naturalization (US Citizenship) application and up to the time of naturalization. An applicant must also establish that he or she has resided in the state or service district having jurisdiction over the application for three months prior to filing.

The concept of continuous residence involves the applicant maintaining a permanent dwelling place in the United States over the period of time required by the statute. The residence in question “is the same as that alien’s domicile, or principal actual dwelling place, without regard to the alien’s intent, and the duration of an alien’s residence in a particular location measured from the moment the alien first establishes residence in that location.”

Accordingly, the applicant’s residence is generally the applicant’s actual physical location regardless of his or her intentions to claim it as his or her residence.

Exceptions to the above

Certain classes of applicants may be eligible for a reduced period of continuous residence, for constructive continuous residence while outside the United States, or for an exemption from the continuous residence requirement altogether.  These classes of applicants include certain military members and certain spouses of U.S. citizens.

The requirements of “continuous residence” and “physical presence” are interrelated but are different requirements. Each requirement must be satisfied (unless otherwise specified) in order for the applicant to be eligible for naturalization.

-USCIS Policy Manual, Volume 12 – Citizenship & Naturalization, Part D – General Naturalization Requirements

For more information or an assessment of your eligibility to file for naturalization, please contact us at nadia@roamimmigration or 917-522-4994.

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