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Chapter 6 - Jurisdiction, Place of Residence, and Early Filing

A. Three-Month Residency Requirement (in State or Service District)

In general, an applicant for naturalization must file his or her application for naturalization with the state or service district that has jurisdiction over his or her place of residence. The applicant must have resided in that location for at least three months prior to filing. 

The term “state” includes the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). [1] The term “service district” is defined as the geographical area over which a USCIS office has jurisdiction. [2] 

The service district that has jurisdiction over an applicant’s application may or may not be located within the state where the applicant resides. In addition, some service districts may have jurisdiction over more than one state and most states contain more than one USCIS office.

In cases where an applicant changes or plans to change his or her residence after filing the naturalization application, the applicant is required to report the change of address to USCIS so that the applicant’s A-file (with application) can be transferred to the appropriate office having jurisdiction over the applicant’s new place of residence.

B. Place of Residence

The applicant’s “residence” refers to the applicant’s principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent. [3] The duration of an applicant’s residence in a particular location is measured from the moment the applicant first establishes residence in that location. [4] 

C. Place of Residence in Certain Cases

There are special considerations regarding the place of residence for the following applicants: [5] 

1. Military Member

Special provisions exist for applicants who are serving or have served in the U.S. armed forces but who do not qualify for naturalization on the basis of the military service for one year. [6] 

  • The service member’s place of residence may be the state or service district where he or she is physically present for at least three months immediately prior to filing (or the examination if filed early);

  • The service member’s place of residence may be the location of the residence of his or her spouse or minor child, or both; or

  • The service member’s place of residence may be his or her home of record as declared to the U.S. armed forces at the time of enlistment and as currently reflected in the service member’s military personnel file. 

2. Spouse of Military Member (Residing Abroad)

The spouse of a U.S. armed forces member may be eligible to count the time he or she is residing (or has resided) abroad with the service member as continuous residence and physical presence in any state or district of the United States. [7] Such a spouse may consider his or her place of residence abroad as a place of residence in any state or district in the United States.

3. Students

An applicant who is attending an educational institution in a state or service district other than the applicant's home residence may apply for naturalization where that institution is located, or in the state of the applicant's home residence if the applicant is financially dependent upon his or her parents at the time of filing and during the naturalization process. [8] 

4. Commuter

A commuter must have taken up permanent residence (principal dwelling place) in the United States for the required statutory period and must meet the residency requirements to be eligible for naturalization. [9] 

5. Residence in Multiple States

If an applicant claims residence in more than one state, the residence for purposes of naturalization will be determined by the location from which the applicant’s annual federal income tax returns have been and are being filed. [10] 

6. Residence During Absences of Less than One Year

An applicant's residence during any absence abroad of less than one year will continue to be the state or service district where the applicant resided before departure. If the applicant returns to the same residence, he or she will have complied with the three-month jurisdictional residence requirement when at least three months have elapsed, including any part of the absence, from when the applicant first established that residence. [11] 

If the applicant establishes residence in a different state or service district from where he or she last resided, the applicant must reside three months at that new residence before applying in order to meet the three-month jurisdictional residence requirement.[12] 

7. Noncitizen Nationals of the United States

A noncitizen national may naturalize if he or she becomes a resident of any state and is otherwise qualified. [13] Noncitizen nationals will satisfy the continuous residence and physical presence requirements while residing in an outlying possession. Such applicants must reside for three months prior to filing in a state or service district to be eligible for naturalization.

D. 90-Day Early Filing Provision (INA 334)

An applicant filing under the general naturalization provision may file his or her application up to 90 days before he or she would first meet the required 5-year period of continuous residence as an LPR. [14] Although an applicant may file early according to the 90 day early filing provision, the applicant is not eligible for naturalization until he or she has reached the required five-year period of continuous residence as a lawful permanent resident (LPR).

USCIS calculates the early filing period by counting back 90 days from the day before the applicant would have first satisfied the continuous residence requirement for naturalization. For example, if the applicant would satisfy the five-year continuous residence requirement for the first time on June 10, 2010 USCIS will begin to calculate the 90-day early filing period from June 9, 2010. In such a case, the earliest that the applicant is allowed to file would be March 12, 2010 (90 calendar days earlier).

In cases where an applicant has filed early and the required three month period of residence in a state or service district falls within the required five-year period of continuous residence, jurisdiction for filing will be based on the three-month period immediately preceding the examination on the application. [15] 

E. Expediting Applications from Certain Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Beneficiaries

USCIS will expedite naturalization applications filed by applicants:

  • Who are within one year or less of having their Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits terminated by the Social Security Administration (SSA); and 

  • Whose naturalization application has been pending for four months or more from the date of receipt by USCIS. 

Although USCIS will prioritize processing of these applications, each applicant is still required to meet all eligibility requirements for naturalization at the time of filing. Applicants must inform USCIS of the approaching termination of benefits by InfoPass appointment or by United States postal mail or other courier service by providing:

  • A cover letter or cover sheet to explain that SSI benefits will be terminated within one year or less and that their naturalization application has been pending for four months or more from the date of receipt by USCIS; and

  • A copy of the applicant’s most recent SSA letter indicating the termination of their SSI benefits. (The USCIS alien number must be written at the top right of the SSA letter).


[^ 1] See INA 101(a)(36). As of November 28, 2009, the CNMI is part of the definition of United States. See Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, Pub. L. 110-229 (May 8, 2008). See Chapter 3, Continuous Residence, Section E, Residence in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands [12 USCIS-PM D.3(E)].

[^ 2] See 8 CFR 316.1.

[^ 3] See INA 101(a)(33). This is the same as the applicant’s actual domicile.

[^ 4] See 8 CFR 316.5(a).

[^ 5] See 8 CFR 316.5(b).

[^ 6] See INA 328. See Part I, Military Members and their Families, Chapter 2, One Year of Military Service during Peacetime (INA 328) [12 USCIS-PM I.2].

[^ 7] See INA 319(e). See Part I, Military Members and their Families, Chapter 9, Spouses, Children, and Surviving Family Benefits, Section B, Spouses of Military Members [12 USCIS-PM I.9(B)]. See Part G, Spouses of U.S. Citizens, Chapter 3, Spouses of U.S. Citizens Residing in the United States [12 USCIS-PM G.3].

[^ 8] See 8 CFR 316.5(b)(2).

[^ 9] See 8 CFR 211.5. See 8 CFR 316.5(b)(3).

[^ 10] See 8 CFR 316.5(b)(4).

[^ 11] See 8 CFR 316.5(b)(5).

[^ 12] See 8 CFR 316.2(a)(5).

[^ 13] See INA 325. See Chapter 5, Modifications and Exceptions to Continuous Residence and Physical Presence [12 USCIS-PM D.5]. 

[^ 14] See INA 334(a). See 8 CFR 334.2(b).

[^ 15] See 8 CFR 316.2(a)(5).


Legal Authorities

INA 316, 8 CFR 316 - General requirements for naturalization

INA 318 - Prerequisite to naturalization, burden of proof

INA 332, 8 CFR 332 - Naturalization administration, executive functions

INA 334(a), 8 CFR 334.2(b) - 90-day early filing provision

INA 335, 8 CFR 335 - Investigation of applicants, examination of applications

INA 336, 8 CFR 336 - Hearings on denials of applications for naturalization


Appendix: History of Acquiring Citizenship under INA 320 for Children of U.S. Citizens who are Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, U.S. Government Employees, or their Spouses

Before October 29, 2019, USCIS considered children of members of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employees, who were stationed outside of the United States, to meet the requirement of “is residing in” the United States for the purpose of acquiring citizenship under INA 320.[1] This interpretation was consistent with the definition of “residence” for purposes of naturalization under INA 316.[2] Based on this treatment of U.S. government employees and their children in the context of naturalization under INA 316, USCIS determined that “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquisition of citizenship under INA 320 should likewise be interpreted to include children of U.S. military and government employees stationed outside of the United States who were residing with their parents.[3]

This interpretation, however, was inconsistent with other provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), including the definition of “residence” at INA 101(a)(33) and language in INA 322(a) and INA 322(d), which suggested that the citizenship of military children residing outside of the United States should be considered under that provision rather than under INA 320. Effective October 29, 2019, USCIS amended its policy guidance to address these concerns, and determined that children of members of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employees stationed outside of the United States would not be eligible for citizenship acquisition under INA 320.[4]

On March 26, 2020, the Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act was enacted,[5] amending INA 320, so that a child residing with his or her U.S. citizen parent, who is stationed outside of the United States as a member of the U.S. armed forces or a U.S. government employee, or is residing in marital union with a member of the U.S. armed forces or a U.S. government employee who is stationed outside of the United States, acquires citizenship under INA 320 if all requirements of INA 320(c) and INA 320(a)(1)-(2) are met. In line with the statute, USCIS rescinds its previous guidance, clarifying that these children are eligible to acquire citizenship under INA 320 if all other requirements under INA 320 are met.

The amendment to INA 320 applies to children who were under the age of 18 on March 26, 2020.


[^ 1] Even though the child of a member of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employee stationed outside of the United States may be eligible to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship under INA 322 since he or she resides outside of the United States, USCIS interpreted the child to meet residency requirements under INA 320 as well, which formerly required the child to be residing in the United States with his or her parent to acquire citizenship.

[^ 2] For example, U.S. government employees, including members of the U.S. armed forces, are eligible to apply for an exception to the continuous residence requirement for naturalization under INA 316 as long as their residency outside of the United States was on behalf of the U.S. government. See INA 316(b). See INA 316(a). See Part D, General Naturalization Requirements, Chapter 3, Continuous Residence [12 USCIS-PM D.3].

[^ 3] See Policy Manual Technical Update, Child Citizenship Act and Children of U.S. Government Employees Residing Abroad (July 20, 2015); and Acquisition of Citizenship by Children of U.S. Military and Government Employees Stationed Abroad under Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), No. 103, issued May 6, 2004.

[^ 4] See USCIS Policy Alert, Defining “Residence” in Statutory Provisions Related to Citizenship [PA-2019-05] (PDF, 308.45 KB). This Policy Alert has been superseded by Policy Manual updates to reflect changes made under Pub. L. 116-133 (PDF).

[^ 5] See Pub. L. 116-133 (PDF) (March 26, 2020).


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