One of the most important criteria that every lawful permanent resident must address when applying for naturalization is the continuous residency requirement. In general, a permanent resident must retain that status for at least five years before becoming eligible to apply (permanent residents who are married to and obtained their status through US Citizens can apply after three years). Immigration and Nationality Act § 316(a). However, it gets more complex than that. Assuming that the five (or three) year requirement has been satisfied, the immigration officer will also examine and scrutinize the applicant’s trips outside the US. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (or “INA”), any absence of six months or more will “break” the continuity of one’s residence. The provision, INA § 316(b) reads:
Absence from the United States of more than six months but less than one year during the period for which continuous residence is required for admission to citizenship, immediately preceding the date of filing the application for naturalization, or during the period between the date of filing the application and the date of any hearing…shall break the continuity of such residence, unless the applicant shall establish to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that he did not in fact abandon his residence in the United States during such period.
An individual in this circumstance will be expected to furnish proof that he or she did not abandon his/her residence in the United States. If the immigration officer adjudicating the case is not satisfied, he or she does have the discretion to deny the application, even if the person has passed the history and English proficiency tests. Some demonstrative proof might include tax returns and mail addressed to the applicant during the trip in question. Hoping that the citizenship officer will just take your word for it and take your declaration at face value, unfortunately, rarely works.
For further guidance and insight into what is needed to successfully overcome a presumption of abandonment, please contact our Edison office. We handle a high volume of citizenship and naturalization matters and deal with these thorny issues on a regular basis.