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Defining continuous residency for naturalization

Permanent U.S. residents in California who need to leave the country for a lengthy period may wonder whether this will affect their ability to become naturalized citizens. Immigration law states that in order to apply for naturalization, immigrants must have a period of continuous residence, and a period of time abroad of more than six months ends that continuous residence. However, there are exceptions.

For example, if individuals are abroad to deal with a particular purpose such as a family illness, that time does not count against them. In total, people need five years of continuous residency to apply for naturalization. Spouses of U.S. citizens need three years of continuous residency.

Individuals who spend long periods of time abroad will need to have a good explanation for those trips. Furthermore, there is a reset for people with green cards who spend more than a year out of the country. They need four years and a day of continuous residency. If they have an American spouse, the time period is shortened to two years and a day. Although immigration officers in the past looked at all travel, they now tend to only look at the past three to five years.

Immigration law is complex and changes frequently. Whether individuals have questions about how continuous residency is defined, about naturalization, about bringing family members to the United States or other concerns regarding immigration, an attorney may be able to answer them. An attorney might also be able to suggest avenues for immigration that an individual may be unaware of and may advise clients of their rights as a green card holder, permanent resident, asylum seeker or immigrant. People who are becoming naturalized citizens may wish to work with an attorney to help ensure that all procedures are followed correctly.

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  • American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • State Bar of California | California Board of Legal Specialization
  • Avvo
  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Irvine Chamber