What Does Continuous Residence Mean in Citizenship Applications?


If you are going through the often-complex process of becoming a U.S. citizen, you will be familiar with the term “continuous residence.” However, you may not know its exact legal definition.

Green card holders who are applying to become U.S. citizens, often undergo a process called naturalization which our Texas citizenship attorneys explain here.

Naturalization is the often lengthy process a foreign citizen or national goes through to comply with all of the many requirements under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

social security papers

An important requirement of this process is that applicants for citizenship demonstrate that they have “resided continuously,” or lived in the United States for at least five years, or three years in the case of an applicant who is a qualified spouse of an American citizen.

Calculating continuous residence involves going back to the day you received your green card which is when the continuous residency clock started ticking. It’s important to know that the key date is the one on your green card, rather than when you arrived in the United States.

Extended absences from the United States may disrupt your application states U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Factors That Count Against Continuous Residence

1 – Absences of a year or more may disrupt or derail the process;

2 – Absences of more than six months but less than a year may disrupt the applicant’s continuous residence, unless he or she can prove otherwise.

Applicants Must Show Physical Presence

  • Applicants for citizenship must show they were physically present in the United States at least 30 months within the five year period before they made their application.
  • Qualified spouses of U.S. citizens must show they spent at least 18 months out of the three years prior to their application in the country. The Immigration and Nationality Act sets out some exceptions to the continuous residency requirements, including:
  • Applicants must also show they were in the country in the three months before they filed form N-400 to start the naturalization process.
  • Contractors of the U.S. government;
  • A public international organization;
  • The U.S. Government, including the military;
  • A recognized American institution of research.
  • An organization with a designation under the International Immunities Act.

In short, as long as you have not broken your continuous residence by being out of the country for periods of over six months, you won’t jeopardize your citizenship application.

However, actions like spending more than six months abroad without demonstrating the fact you still live in the U.S., traveling for a year or more and failing to apply for a re-entry visa or failing to file taxes because you don’t see yourself as a resident, can scupper or at least jeopardize your application.

If you have any questions about continuous residency or fear you have broken the chain, our Austin citizenship attorneys can help you. We have helped numerous residents to gain citizenship. To speak to a representative at Peek Law Group , call us at (512) 399-2311.

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