Continuous Residence and Physical Presence Requirements for Naturalization

Continuous Residence

Applicants are required to show that they have:

  • Resided continuously in the U.S. for five years before applying, (see legal basis), or
  • Resided continuously in the U.S. for three years in the case of qualified spouses of U.S. citizens, (see legal basis)

“Continuous residence” means that the applicant has maintained residence within the United States for the required period of time shown above.

Extended absences outside of the U.S. may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence.

Physical Presence

Applicants are required to show that they were:

  • Physically present in the U.S. for thirty months within the five year period before applying, or (see legal basis)
  • Physically present in the U.S. for eighteen months within the three year period before applying in the case of qualified spouses of U.S. citizens (see legal basis)

In addition, applicants are required to show they have resided for at least three months immediately preceding the filing of Form N-400 in the USCIS district or state where the applicant claims to have residency (See 8 CFR §316.2(a)(5) & §319.1(a)(5)).


Section 316 paragraphs (b), (c), and (f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act allows for certain exceptions to the continuous residence requirement for those applicants working abroad for:

  • The United States government, including the military;
  • Contractors of the United States government;
  • A recognized American institution of research (see the list of recognized American institutions of research and other recognized organizations);
  • A public international organization;
  • An organization designated under the International Immunities Act; or
  • A denomination or mission that has a bona fide organization in the United States for the purposes of performing ministerial or priestly functions or engaged as a clergyman or clergywoman, missionary, brother, nun, or sister.

If you seek to preserve your continuous residence for naturalization purposes while employed abroad by one of these recognized institutions you must file Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes, with USCIS.  

An organization may obtain USCIS recognition as an American institution of research for the purpose of preserving the continuous residence status of its employees who are, or will be, naturalization applicants assigned abroad for an extended period. The requesting organization should follow the instructions found on our Requesting Recognition as an American Institution of Research page.

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