Basic Facts About Naturalization Eligibility © 2010-2011 Peter J. Loughlin, Esq. and Thomas W. Goldman, Esq.
Age Requirement for Naturalization
In order to apply for naturalization an applicant must first be a lawfully admitted permanent resident of the United States of at least 18 years of age.
Good Moral Character Requirement
All applicants for naturalization must be of good moral character. Certain crimes and bad acts, even though not resulting in a criminal conviction, may make one ineligible to naturalize for lack of good moral character. In addition some crimes or acts may be sufficient cause to deny the application and place the applicant in proceedings to be removed from the United States. It is highly advisable to contact an immigration attorney if you have committed (even if not arrested) or been convicted any crime or bad act before filing for naturalization. More Information About Good Moral Character
Continual Residence Requirement
Applicants must have resided continuously within the United States at least 5 years after having been lawfully admitted for permanent residence or at least 3 years if applicant’s permanent residence was obtained by marriage to a U.S. citizen. (See INA §316.5) However, this does not mean that an applicant must have actually remained in the United States for the entire five or three year period of residence. (see Physical Presence Test and Breaks in Residence below).
Physical Presence Requirement /Test
In order to naturalize an applicant must demonstrate that s/he has, subsequent to lawful admission as a permanent resident, resided has been physically present in the United States at least 30 of the past 60 months or 18 of the past 36 months where the applicant’s permanent residence was obtained by marriage to a U.S. citizen. (See INA § 316(a))
Effect of Breaks in Continuous Residence of Less than Six Months Absence from the United States
No break in continuity of residence for naturalization purposes.
Effect of Breaks in Continuous Residence of More than Six Months Absence from the United States – but less than one year
Only presumptively breaks the continuity of residence for naturalization purposes. This means that an applicant may rebut the presumption with evidence that s/he did not intend to abandon their residence for naturalization purposes.
However, if the applicant is unable to overcome the presumption, s/he must wait 4 years and a day to apply for naturalization, or 2 years and a day if they obtained lawful permanent resident status by marriage to a U.S. citizen. (See 8 CFR 316.5(c)(1)(ii))
Effect of Breaks in Continuous Residence of More than One Year Absence from the United States
If a applicant remains outside the United States for more than one year they will break the continuity of residence for naturalization purposes and must wait 4 years and a day to apply for naturalization, or 2 years and a day if they obtained permanent residence by marriage to a U.S. Citizen. (See 8 CFR 316.5(c)(1)(ii))