The Continuous Residence Requirement for Naturalization

In order to become a citizen of the US, an immigrant must typically first apply for a green card and ensure that they meet a number of requirements, including a knowledge of English. One of requirements of naturalization is also continuous residency in the US. Since the requirements for US citizenship are complex, anyone who gets a green card in the US should immediately consider whether they wish to become a citizen of the US. If so, it is important to make this decision early and to make sure that life decisions made will help lead to naturalization.

Many permanent residents of the US decide to take trips outside of the US, but when a permanent resident knows that he or she wants to become a US citizen, that permanent resident can make trips keeping the residency requirement in mind. Typically, a permanent resident needs to maintain continuous residence in the US for five years to become a US citizen and must be a green card holder for five years to become naturalized. Keeping this in mind is important when planning any trips outside the US, as any longer trips can jeopardize the residency requirement. If you are married to a US citizen and get a green card that way, your residency requirement may be three years, as long as you live with your spouse and remain married to them.

When you do apply for citizenship, you will need to note any trips outside the US, including their duration, destination, and purpose. If, upon receiving your green card you decide to seek naturalization you can keep track of any trips you take.  You can also ensure that you do not take any trips longer than six months, as these can affect your residency requirement. If you must take a trip outside the US for more than six months, you will need to take steps to ensure that you show that you do not intend to abandon your permanent residency or your residency in the US.

Deciding to pursue citizenship early is also important for other reasons. If, upon getting your green card, you decide to pursue citizenship in five years or three years (once you have fulfilled the residency requirement) you can start perfecting your English and start learning about US history and civics, so that you can pass the citizenship test. You can also look to establish a permanent residence in the US and take part in community activities to show that you have a strong moral character, as this is a requirement for US citizenship. Maintaining a clean criminal record and adapting to life in the US show that you are serious about becoming a US citizen and make your naturalization application stronger.