US Citizenship

Becoming a United States citizen is a significant milestone that offers many benefits and responsibilities. To be eligible, applicants must meet several requirements. These include holding a Green Card for a specific period, showing continuous residence and physical presence in the United States, demonstrating good moral character, and passing English and civics tests. Understanding these requirements is essential for successfully applying and achieving your goal of U.S. citizenship.

The Different Requirements For U.S. Citizenship

1. Permanent Residency 

You need to have a Green Card for at least five years. If you are married to a U.S. citizen, that requirement drops to three years.

2. Continuous Residence

Continuous residence means that the applicant has maintained residence within the United States for a specified period without any prolonged absences that could interrupt this residency. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) evaluates this requirement to ensure that you have established a lasting commitment to living in the country.

The general rule is that the applicant must have continuously resided in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident (LPR) for at least five years before applying for naturalization. If you are married to a U.S. citizen, the continuous residence requirement is reduced to three years, provided you have lived together in a marital union with your spouse for those three years. 

An absence from the U.S. for less than six months (180 days) will maintain your continuous residence. An absence between six months and one year can disrupt your continuous residence unless you can prove that you did not abandon your residence during this time. You should confirm that you maintained ties to the U.S., such as keeping a home or job here. An absence of one year or more will generally break your continuous residence. 

It is important to avoid actions that suggest abandonment of U.S. residence. Some factors that can help demonstrate continuous residence include:

  • Holding a job in the U.S. and your employment records, such as pay stubs and employment verification letters.
  • Maintaining a home in the U.S. and keeping residential records, such as lease agreements, mortgage documents, utility bills, and other proof of your living situation.
  • Demonstrating that you have immediate family members who are remaining in the U.S.
  • Filing U.S. income tax returns as a resident.
  • Affirming your presence in the U.S. with affidavits from friends, family, or community members.

3. Physical Presence Requirement

The physical presence requirement is an important aspect of the naturalization process for U.S. citizenship. It ensures that applicants have spent significant time in the United States, demonstrating their commitment and connection to the country. Physical presence refers to the total number of days the applicant must generally be physically present in the United States before applying for naturalization. 

Elements of the Physical Presence Requirement

  • General Rule: The applicant must be physically present in the U.S. for at least 30 months (2.5 years) out of the five years immediately preceding the date of filing the application.
  • Exceptions: 1) Spouse of a U.S. Citizen: If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you must be physically present for at least 18 months (1.5 years) out of the three years immediately preceding the application; 2) Military Service: Different rules apply to members of the U.S. military and their families, often reducing or waiving the physical presence requirement.

Importance of Documentation

You must meet the physical presence requirement to ensure you complete your naturalization process on time. You should carefully track your time spent abroad and plan your naturalization application accordingly. You will need to count all the days you were physically in the U.S. Any part of a day spent in the U.S. counts as a full day. Keep detailed records of your travels in and out of the country. If you do go out of the United States during this time, maintain a detailed travel log, including:

  • Dates of departure and return for each trip.
  • Reason for travel.
  • Supporting documents, such as boarding passes, passport stamps, and itineraries.
  •  Log of all of the remaining days in the United States to meet the physical presence requirement.

Note that certain absences might affect your continuous residence but not necessarily your physical presence if they are brief and temporary. 

4. Good Moral Character

The U.S. government wants to ensure new citizens have good moral character. Things like paying your taxes, obeying the law, and being honest in the application process are essential.

5. English and Civics Test

You must show basic English skills and pass a test on U.S. history and government. They give you study materials so that you will be well-prepared.

6. Filing the Application

Once you meet the residency requirements, you can file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. It is essential to meet all eligibility criteria and gather the necessary documentation to support your application.

Exceptions and Special Cases Regarding The Residency Requirements

There are some exceptions and special considerations for specific groups:

  • Military Service: Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses may be eligible for expedited or overseas naturalization.
  • Certain Employees of the U.S. Government, Recognized American Institutions of Research, or International Organizations: Under specific conditions, these individuals may be able to preserve their continuous residence while working abroad.
  • Citizenship Through Parents: If you were born abroad to U.S. citizen parents or if your parents became naturalized before you turned 18, you might already be eligible for citizenship.

Oath of Allegiance:

Once everything is approved, you will attend a ceremony and swear an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States.


Understanding and meeting the requirements for U.S. citizenship is crucial for a successful naturalization process. It is always advisable to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss your specific circumstances. As you can see, each step along the path has its requirements and paperwork. If you want to explore citizenship in the United States, let Rahimi Law Firm help you achieve your goal.  Our offices in Great Neck and Manhattan are ready to provide personalized guidance and support. Contact our office – we are happy to help you with your situation.