US Citizenship through Continuous Residence

Eligibility by Category

The most common pathway to naturalization is continuous residence. As the American nation was built on and by immigrants from around the world, seeking freedom, happiness, and prosperity, their new country gradually imposed certain requirements on newcomers aspiring to American citizenship. One of the most important conditions was and still is that you must live in the US permanently, i.e., most of the time, in order to become a US citizen.

The continuous residence and physical presence requirements can be a point of confusion for many permanent residents who apply for US citizenship.

Here are the most important numeric conditions and general parameters for naturalization in this category. Keep them in mind!


Continuous residence means that the applicant has maintained residence within the United States for a specified period of time. Generally, you must have five years of continuous residence in the US to become eligible for naturalized citizenship. You may live outside theUS if you are employed by the American government, including the military, or are a contractor of the US government, a researcher, an international organization employee, or a religious worker.


You must live at least 30 months or 913 days within those 5 years in the United States.
Physical presence means that the applicant has been physically present within the United States for a certain cumulative period of time.

  • Permanent residents may want to visit family and friends in their respective countries of origin by traveling for extended periods and returning to the United States. For these permanent residents, it is important to understand how absences from the United States can affect their eligibility for naturalization. A trip abroad that is less than six months will not disrupt continuous residence.
  • You should not spend more than 181 days outside theUnited States within each of the five years. A trip of more than 6 months but less than 1 year is presumed to break your continuous residence. But it does not necessarily mean that you are ineligible. Family circumstances, health, work, relatives remaining in the US, or travel conditions might be recognized as excusable reasons for a prolonged absence.

If you spent more than 1 year outside the US within the last 5 years, it is very unlikely that you will be eligible for naturalization. You should avoid any trips abroad of six months or longer.


The 4 year 1 day rule applies to permanent lawful residents who were required to be in the US for a continuous period of 5 years but who broke the continuity of their residence. The period of 4 years and 1 day is the time that must elapse before you can apply for naturalization again.

Also, you must have a good moral character, be current with your taxes, pay or be exempt from filing fees, pass or be exempt from a Civics / ESL exam, and attend an interview with a USCIS official.

TIP! You might be able to apply for US  citizenship after one year of service in the US armed forces. For more information go to the Military Personnel.

Are you eligible for US naturalization? Sign up for a free test! In three minutes you will find out your eligibility.

Also, you can sign up for a free personal consultation with our immigration specialist accredited by US Immigration and Citizenship Services .

US Citizenship may be granted automatically to the children of US citizens coming from abroad, no matter where the birth or adoption took place.
The spouse of a US citizen who resides in the United States may be eligible to file an Application for Naturalization on the basis of his or her marriage.
Besides spouses and children under 18, all direct relatives may reunite with their parents, grown children, and siblings.
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