It is very common to confuse the physical presence requirement with the continuous residence requirement for naturalization. The two concepts, while related and seemingly similar, are actually different and must be independently satisfied in addition to the other eligibility requirements for US citizenship. Failure to meet both tests can, unfortunately, be fatal for an application and result in a denial as well as loss of filing fees.
How Many Days Do I Have to Be in the US Before I Can Apply?
An applicant must demonstrate not only that he/she has been a continuous resident of the US for five years, but also that he/she has been physically present in the country for at least half of that time. This comes out to 30 months or roughly 913 days of physical presence that must be shown prior to the application.
What If I am Applying Under the 3-Year Rule?
Section 319 of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides that some permanent residents may apply for naturalization after three years provided that he/she has been married for at least three years to a US Citizen who has been a citizen for at least three years. In that case, the applicant must show physical presence in the United States for at least 18 months (or 548 days) preceding the date of filing the application.
What About Long Trips over 180 Days?
Trips that are over six months do not necessarily disqualify an individual from applying for naturalization. In fact, one can still theoretically meet the physical presence requirement despite trips outside the US over 180 days as long as the required number of days is met. However, trips that length will likely raise issues as to continuous residence, which is a separate issue that must be satisfied by demonstrating proof of residence.
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