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'Continuous Residence' & Naturalization

Right now, immigration is a hot topic politically, nationally and on a statewide level. The United States rewards immigrants who go through the immigration process legally. While it takes time and a lot of patience to become a U.S citizen legally, the advantages make it all worth it.

On average it takes about six months to for qualified applicants to obtain a green card and permanent resident status, sometimes it’s a bit longer in areas with a high immigrant population.

Once the immigrant obtains their green card, they must have permanent resident status for 5 years before they can apply for naturalization, or 3 years under special circumstances, such as marrying a U.S. citizen.

However, being a permanent resident for 3 or 5 years is not enough to qualify for U.S. citizenship, you must remain on U.S. soil for a certain length of time.

For example, if you’re a Mexican national who obtained a green card, but went back to Mexico for 3 of the 5 years that you had the green card, you would not yet qualify for citizenship because you did not maintain a “continuous residence” in the U.S. during the 5 years that you had a green card.

Immigrants Demonstrating Loyalty

U.S. lawmakers want to see that permanent residents are making their own way in the United States. They want to see that green card holders are adapting to the community, being good citizens, learning the English language, working hard, and showing that they will be honorable U.S. citizens who are loyal to the United States, not another country.

In order to do all of these things, the green card holder must show “continuous residence.” They cannot simply obtain a green card and take off. They must demonstrate that they are trying to be good members of the communities where they live in the U.S.

What is continuous residence?

Under U.S. immigration law, “continuous residence” means that an immigrant becomes a permanent resident and does not leave the U.S. for a long period of time. Basically, if you obtain a green card and then leave the country or go back to your home country for a long period of time, you may disrupt the required continuous residence.

How long is too long? In the majority of cases, if someone leaves the United States for 12 months or longer, they disrupted the continuous residence requirement. This also applies if the permanent resident obtains a re-entry permit.

Here’s how it works: if you leave the U.S. for one year or longer, you may be able to come back to the U.S. as a permanent residence if you obtain a re-entry permit, but you would not be able to count the time you spent in the U.S. before you left towards your continuous residence.

For more information about continuous residence, contact our Plano immigration attorneys.