This process is specific to foreign-born individuals who have obtained their Green Card and are legally described as Legal Permanent Residents of the United States. All Legal Permanent Residents must meet certain eligibility requirements in order to qualify to become United States Citizens, including waiting a certain period of time living within the United States before becoming eligible for Citizenship. These periods of time are known as the Continuous Residence Requirement and the Physical Presence Requirement which are determined by the legal basis that created Citizenship eligibility and in many cases the nature of the relationship with the petitioning Citizen relative.
If Legal Permanent Resident Status was obtained through a petition filed by an employer or through a family based petition filed by a Legal Permanent Resident Spouse; United States Citizen Parent; Legal Permanent Resident Parent or United States Citizen son or Daughter, the Legal Permanent Resident must reside in the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident for a period of 5-years before being eligible for Citizenship. If Legal Permanent Resident status was obtained from a petition filed by a United States Citizen Spouse, then the residence requirement within the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident is reduced to 3 years.
Whether applying based on the 5- or 3-year residency requirement, the Legal Permanent Resident must also prove that the Legal Permanent Resident has been a person of good moral character for the required period of either 5- or 3-years before applying for Citizenship.
Legal Permanent Residents applying based on the 5-or 3-year residency requirement must prove that the Legal Permanent Resident maintained a domicile or principal actual dwelling place within the United States for the 5 – or 3-year Continuous Residence Period. Extended absences outside of the United States for more than six months but less than one year create a rebuttable presumption that the absence may have disrupted the Continuous Residence Period. This means that a Resident who traveled outside the United States for a period of 6 months or more but less than one year within the 5-or 3-year period can still attempt to prove that the continuous presence was not disrupted. Examples of evidence that help prove that continuous residence was not disrupted includes:
- Evidence that the Resident’s employment in the United States was not terminated or that the Resident did not obtain employment while abroad.
- Evidence that the Resident’s immediate family members remained in the United States.
- Evidence that the Resident continued to own or lease a home in the United States.
If a Resident cannot prove that the continuous residence was not disrupted, the Resident will need to establish a new period of continuous residence.
If a Resident was absent from the United States for a period of 1 year or more, such absence will automatically break the continuous residence period. The Resident will have to reside in the United States for a new continuous period unless the Resident’s absence was a result of employment abroad by a specific type of employer including the United States government and the Resident filed form N-470 to attempt to preserve Residence for Naturalization before accruing a continuous period of 1 year abroad. Employers abroad that will exempt the Resident from the continuous residence requirement if form N-470 is properly filed include:
- The United States government, including the Military.
- Contractors of the United States government.
- Recognized American Institutions of Research.
- Public International Organizations.
- Organizations designated under the International Immunities Act.
If the Resident was absent from the United States for more than 1 year and does not qualify for the exemption and is applying based on the 5-year continuous residence requirement, the Resident will have to wait in the United States for a new period of at least 4 years and 1 day and also be able to overcome the presumption of a break in continuous residence in order to qualify again for Naturalization. If the presumption of a continuous break in residence cannot be overcome, then the Resident must wait a total period of 4 years and 6 months to qualify again for Naturalization.
If the Resident is applying based on the 3-year continuous residence requirement and was absent from the United States for more than 1 year, the Resident will have to wait in the United States a new period of at least 2 years and 1 day and overcome the presumption of a break in continuous residence or wait for a total of 2 years and 6 months to qualify again for Naturalization.
Additionally, Legal Permanent Residents applying for Naturalization based on the 5-year continuous residence requirement must prove that they were physically present in the United States for a period of 30 months within the 5-year period before applying for Naturalization.
Legal Permanent Residents applying for Naturalization based on the 3-year continuous residence requirement must prove that they were physically present in the United States for a period of 18 months within the 3-year period before applying for Naturalization.
Remember that all Legal Permanent Residents must also prove that they have resided for a period of 3 months immediately preceding the filing of the application in the USCIS district or state where the applicant resides.
A child who obtained Legal Permanent Resident status by being a victim of an abusive United States Citizen or the child of a victim abused by a United States Citizen Spouse will be able to apply for Citizenship by meeting the 3 year residency requirement.
Surviving spouses, children and parents of deceased United States Citizen Military Service Members do not need to meet the 3- or 5-year physical presence requirements.
Spouses of Citizen Military Service Members under specific conditions can count their time residing abroad with their Military Spouse towards the physical presence requirement or can be allowed to naturalize from abroad without having to meet physical presence requirements.
There are a number of factors that can derail the citizenship process. You can find out more about these by clicking here.