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Do I have to Remain in the US While My N-400 Naturalization Application is Pending?

Posted by Christopher Keen | Jul 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

New-to-be Citizens taking the oath

Many Lawful Permanent Residents want to submit their Naturalization application, but do not know if they can travel after they submit their application and before they take their oath.  You do not have to remain in the US while your naturalization is pending. However, you want to make sure that you do not interrupt continuous residence and that you can meet the physical presence requirements for naturalization.

Immediately preceding the date of filing an application for naturalization, an applicant must have resided continuously within the United States for at least five years (or three years if lawful permanent residence was acquired through a U.S. citizen spouse and the parties are still married) and must have been physically present for periods totaling at least half of that time. INA 316(a)(1). Furthermore, the applicant must have resided within the State in which the applicant filed the application for at least three months.

In immigration law, there is a distinction between “residence” and “physical presence.” “Residence” means the place of general abode, or the principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent. INA 101(a)(33). Absences more than 6 months from the United States, including absences prior to filing the naturalization application or between filing and the applicant's admission to citizenship, automatically interrupt the residence requirement. However, an officer may also review whether an applicant with multiple absences of less than 6 months will be able to satisfy the continuous residence and physical presence requirements. USCIS Policy Manual, Volume 12, Chapter 3.

Absences of More Than 6 Months but Less than One Year

An applicant's intent is not relevant in determining the location of his or her residence. The period of absence from the United States is the defining factor in determining whether the applicant is presumed to have disrupted his or her residence. However, an applicant may overcome the presumption of loss of his or her continuity of residence by providing evidence to establish that the applicant did not disrupt his or her residence. The evidence may include, but is not limited to, documentation that during the absence:

  • The applicant did not terminate employment in the United States or obtain employment while abroad.
  • The applicant's immediate family remained in the United States.
  • The applicant retained full access to his or herUnited Statesdwelling.

Absences of More Than One Year

An absence of more than one year will break the continuous residence requirement unless an exception applies. If no exception applies, the applicant must wait the required amount of time to be able to establish 5 years (or 3 years) of continuous residence.

Oath Ceremony in Salt Lake City, Utah

Having attended several Naturalization ceremonies, I have seen the emotion on the faces of many new citizens.  Some of them have worked long and hard for this special day.  Congratulations to those of you taking this important step.  

It is always advisable to consult with an immigration attorney prior to applying for naturalization and prior to traveling, since the information provided is of a general nature and not intended to replace legal representation. Individual circumstances should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For more information about your case, please feel free to contact Keen Law Offices, LLC at (801) 374-5336.

About the Author

Christopher Keen

As the founding attorney for Keen Law Offices, LLC, J. Christopher Keen received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Brigham Young University. He then went on to receive his Juris Doctor degree from J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University. Since that time, he has been admitted to practice before all of the state courts in Utah.


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