A permanent resident must reside in the U.S. for certain number of years before applying for naturalization. The duration of continuous residence requirement depends on the type of application.
I. If you have been a permanent resident for the last 5 years and have no other special conditions, you must reside in the U.S. for a continuous period of 5 years after lawful admission to the U.S. as a permanent resident.
II. If you are currently married to and living with U.S. citizen, AND have been in the marriage with the same U.S. citizen for the last 3 years, AND your spouse has been the U.S. citizen for the past 3 years, you must reside in the U.S. for a continuous period of 3 years after lawful admission to the U.S. as a permanent resident.
Mere possession of a permanent resident card for the period of time required for continuous residence does not in itself establish the applicant’s continuous residence for naturalization purposes. The applicant must demonstrate actual maintenance of his or her principal dwelling place in the United States through testimony and documentation.
Absence from the U.S. for prolonged period of time might break the continuity of the applicant’s residence in the U.S. Get familiar below how duration of your absence may affect the continuity of the residence requirement:
- Absence from the U.S. for 6 months or less. If you have left the U.S. for less than 6 months, you continuous residence has not been broken for naturalization purposes.
- Absence from the U.S. for more than 6 months but less than 1 year. An absence of more than six months (more than 181 days but less than one year (less than 365 days)) during the period for which continuous residence is required is presumed to break the continuity of such residence. This includes any absence that takes place prior to filing the naturalization application or between filing and the applicant’s admission to citizenship.
An applicant may overcome the presumption of loss of his or her continuity of residence by providing evidence to establish that the applicant did not disrupt his or her residence. The evidence may include, but is not limited to, documentation that during the absence: (1) the applicant maintained his or her employment in the United States or obtain employment while abroad; (2) the applicant’s immediate family remained in the United States; (3 )The applicant retained full access to his or her place of residence in the United States.
- Absence from the U.S. for 1 year or more. An absence from the United States for a continuous period of one year or more (365 days or more) during the period for which continuous residence is required will break the continuity of residence. This applies whether the absence takes place prior to or after filing the naturalization application. If continuous residency is broken, you may apply for naturalization in 4 years and 1 day (or 2 years and 1 day if the 3 year period applies to you) following the date of your return to the U.S. to resume your continuous residency.
So, if you are planning to spend more than 1 year outside the U.S., it is advisable to obtain a Reentry Permit in order to preserve your permanent residency status in the U.S. If you fail to obtain reentry permit and spend more than a year outside the U.S., you risk to abandon your legal permanent resident status and be put in removal proceeding by Customs Border Protection for coming to the U.S. without any immigration status.