Effect of Breaks in Continuity of Residence on Eligibility for Naturalization

USCIS on February 26, 2020, announced an update to the USCIS Policy Manual to align USCIS practice with congressional intent and existing regulations by clarifying requirements surrounding naturalization applicants’ absences from the United States. This update concerns absences of more than six months but less than one year during the statutorily required continuous residence period.

This update clarifies the following requirements for naturalization:

  • An applicant who has been absent from the United States for more than six months but less than a year must overcome the presumption that they have broken the continuity of their residence in the United States; and
  • An applicant who has broken the continuity of residence in the United States must establish a new period of continuous residence, the length of which depends on the basis for naturalizing.

An applicant filing under the general naturalization provision is not eligible until they have reached the required period of continuous residence as a lawful permanent resident. Under the law, an absence from the United States for more than six months but less than one year during the statutory period triggers a presumption of a break in the continuity of such residence. USCIS adjudicators have always been required to determine whether naturalization applicants have broken their continuous residence when evaluating naturalization applications.

This update raised more the level of difficulty to those who have stayed more than six months but less than one year outside the United States.  They are deemed to have broken the residence continuity unless they can prove otherwise.  If they can’t prove it to the satisfaction of USCIS, they have to delay their citizenship application.

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