Residency requirements could delay your path to citizenship through the naturalization process.
Through the naturalization process, people from other countries may qualify for citizenship status in the United States, provided they fulfill certain requirements. In addition to being found of good moral character, having a basic knowledge of English and civics (with some exceptions such as for age or disability), and embracing the principles of the U.S. Constitution, you must also have lived in the U.S. for a specific time period. Immigration services recently clarified residency requirements, which could delay the path to citizenship for some people.
Residency Requirements for Naturalization
Nationalization is your path to becoming a citizen of the U.S., allowing you to enjoy all of the rights, privileges, and protections that go along with it. Under United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) guidelines, maintaining residency in the country for a period of time is a key part in the naturalization process. Residency requirements for immigrants seeking naturalization vary depending on your situation:
- If you are at least 18 years old, you must have been a permanent resident for the past five years;
- If you are at least 18 years old and currently married to and living with a U.S. citizen, this time is reduced to three years;
- If you are at least 18 years old and were previously a member of the U.S. Armed Forces who served for less than one year, the permanent residency requirement is five years.
- If you are a current member of the Armed Force and have served for at least one year, you are only required to be a permanent resident on the day of your USCIS interview;
- If you previously performed active duty service after 9/11 or in the Persian Gulf, Vietnam, Korea, or any World War, you are not required to be a permanent resident to go through the naturalization process.
Residency Issues That Could Delay Your Path to Citizenship
Questions concerning residency are common, as issues pertaining to it could jeopardize your rights in becoming a U.S. citizen. One of the biggest concerns regards your current legal residency status:
- A permanent resident is one who is here under a Visa that allows them to remain in the country for an indefinite period of time;
- A temporary resident is one who is permitted to stay in the U.S. for a particular period, generally one or two years;
- A long-term resident may remain up to 10 years or longer.
You must be a permanent resident to be eligible for naturalization. Another important issue that could delay your path to citizenship concerns your continuity of residence. In late February 2020, USCIS issued a news release clarifying residency requirements. If you have been absent from the U.S. for a period of up to six months or a year, continuity of residence may be considered broken, potentially impacting your eligibility status and delaying the naturalization process. As with many issues of immigration law, there are exceptions, so it is important to consult with an attorney when considering naturalization, the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.
Our Nashville Immigration Attorneys are Here to Help
At the Ozment Law, PLC., we guide you through issues that could impact your path to becoming a U.S. citizen. To schedule a confidential consultation, contact our Nashville immigration attorneys today.