Foreign nationals must meet basic requirements to be eligible for United States citizenship. Specifically, the Applicant must:
o Be admitted to permanent resident status.
o Have a continuous residence in the United States for at least five years for most permanent residents (and at least three years for those married to a U.S. citizen).
o Reside in the U.S. state from where they are applying for at least three months.
o Have the ability to read, write, and speak ordinary English.
o Have knowledge of U.S. history and government.
o Be of good moral character.
o Maintain continuous residence in the U.S. from the date of filing the naturalization application until actual admission to citizenship.
o Have been physically present in the United States for at least 2.5 years (1.5 years for most spouses of U.S. citizens).
o Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing for naturalization (subject to certain exceptions).
o Support the principles of the U.S.
Continuity of Residence for Naturalization
In order to naturalize, the permanent resident must reside continuously in the U.S. for a period of five (or three) years after admission to resident status. While trips abroad are permitted, it's important to make sure that the trip does not break the continuity of residence in the U.S. for naturalization purposes. The following rules apply:
o An absence of less than six months does not break the continuity of residence in the U.S.
o An absence of six months or more, but less than one year, breaks the continuity residence unless there is a reasonable explanation for the absence (i.e. work abroad with a U.S. employer).
o An absence from the U.S. of one year or more automatically breaks the continuity of residence for naturalization purposes, unless one takes steps prior to the expiration of the year abroad to preserve the continuity of his/her residence.
How to Preserve Continuity of Residence
One way to avoid negative consequences of the continuous residence naturalization rule is to return to the U.S. every six months, or at least every year if there is a reasonable explanation for the absence. Even a short stay in the U.S. is sufficient to end the absence abroad for continuous residence purposes. When planning such trips, however, it is important to still meet the ultimate requirement of physical presence in the U.S. for at least half the period of required continuous residence i.e., 2.5 years (or 1.5 years for most spouses of U.S. citizens).
What if Continuity of Residence isBroken?
The consequences of a break in the continuity of residence for naturalization purposes are significant. After a break in continuity, you must start all over again to accumulate the necessary five or three years of continuous residence upon his or her return to the U.S.
Maintaining Continuity of Residence Versus Permanent Resident Status
It is critical to consider the difference between maintaining continuity of residence for naturalization purposes and maintaining permanent resident status. Maintaining permanent resident status depends on the intention to return to the U.S. after a temporary trip abroad. The issuance of a re-entry permit is an acknowledgment that the trip abroad is considered temporary (at least up to two years). Maintaining continuity of residence for naturalization purposes depends strictly on the length of the absence, and the issuance of a re-entry permit has no bearing on this issue.