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Residence for naturalization purposes

J. G. Azarcon, Esq.By J. G. Azarcon, Esq.

Residence in the U.S. is among several requirements for permanent residents applying for naturalization. A permanent resident must reside continuously in the U.S. for a period of five years after obtaining permanent resident status. If the permanent resident obtained such status through marriage to a U.S. citizen, the residence requirement is three years. Of the five years (or three years for spouses of U.S. citizens) residence requirement, the permanent resident must have been physically present in the US for at least half of that period.

For purposes of counting continuous residence, an absence of six months does not break the continuity of the alien’s residence in the U.S. An absence of more than six months but less than one year breaks the continuity of the alien’s residence, unless the alien can demonstrate a reasonable cause for the extended absence. An absence from the U.S. of one year or more definitely interrupts the continuity of the alien’s residence for naturalization purposes, unless the alien files a request with the Immigration Service for an extended absence benefit before he has been absent from the US for one year.

Who qualifies for extended absence benefits?

The alien must meet the following requirements:

1. He has resided or been physically present in the U.S. as a permanent resident for an uninterrupted period of one year prior to the absence;

2. He will be working abroad for the (i) U.S. government, (ii) a U.S. research institute, (iii) a U.S. corporation engaged in foreign trade and commerce, and (iv) an international organization (for which the alien was not employed prior to becoming a permanent resident) of which the US is a member;

3. The absence from the US is in furtherance of his overseas employment.

If the alien’s residence in the U.S. is interrupted by absence, the alien must start all over again to meet the necessary five (or three) years of continuous residence upon his return to the US.

A permanent resident who breaks the continuity of residence, may apply 4 years and 1 day following the date of his return to the U.S. to resume residency. As for aliens who are married to US citizens, they can apply for naturalization after 2 years and 1 day following his return.

Permanent residents should not confuse the physical residence requirements for naturalization purposes with the physical residence requirement for purposes of preserving permanent residence. To preserve permanent residence status, a green card holder should not be absent from the U.S. for more than one year, unless he obtains a reentry permit from the CIS before departure. If a green card holder intends to preserve his continuous residence for purposes of applying for naturalization at the earliest time, he should not be absent from the U.S. for six months or more.

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