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Becoming a US Citizen through Naturalization: Eligibility, Requirements and Reentry Permits

Becoming a US Citizen is a dream come true to many foreign nationals who wish to live and work in the US, reunite with their family or own a US passport.

However, some of the requirements can seem quite confusing and complicated. If you have questions about the naturalization process and how to become a US citizen, you’ve come to the right place. Let me address some of the main requirements today.

First, you must be eligible to file form N-400 - Application for Naturalization. In order to be eligible, you must:

  1. Be at least 18 years old at the time you file the application;

  2. Have been a lawful permanent resident for the past five years (or three years if you are acquiring Us citizenship through marriage to a US Citizen);

  3. Have lived continuously in the United States for the past three to five years;

  4. Read, write, and speak basic English;

  5. Be able to demonstrate good moral character;

  6. Have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government;

  7. Pledge loyalty to the U.S. Constitution; and

  8. Be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance.

Note that some exceptions apply to those seeking to become US Citizens through Military Service.

Most of the questions I receive from Legal Permanent Residents wishing to apply for US Citizenship have to do with requirement #3: Have lived continuously in the United States for the past three to five years.

The rule is quite simple. In order to maintain your status as a Legal Permanent Resident or LPR, you, the foreign national, must live in the United States and spend a minimum of 180 days per year on US soil. If you leave the United States for more than 180 days per year, you might be asked, upon returning to the US, to prove that the trip was of a temporary nature and that you had no intent to abandon your green card. In order to prove your intent to remain a US resident for more than 180 days, you might be asked to show proof of residence and/or employment, a copy of your federal income tax returns, or bank account statements, and explain the reason why you were away for so long. Although the bar is much higher for those who spend a year or more outside of the United States while on LPR status, you could be subject to the grounds of inadmissibility upon your reentry.

If you plan on being outside the United States for more than one year, you must request a Reentry Permit no fewer than 60 days before you leave the country. Reentry permits cannot be requested outside the US. A reentry permit allows you to reenter the country after being gone for more than a year by demonstrating your intent to return. Reentry permits are also a great tool to show intent to remain on LPR status when traveling abroad for more than 180 days per year. Some countries even accept a reentry permit in lieu of a passport. Although you do not have to be physically present in the US when the reentry permit request is approved, you must be in the country at the time you file the request and for the biometrics appointment which is usually scheduled shortly after USCIS receives your request.

Keep in mind that if you are outside the United States for more than a year and you successfully requested a reentry permit, you have preserved tour LPR status. However, it will take you longer to become eligible for US Citizenship. That is because a reentry permit does not preserve continuous residence for purposes of citizenship. A request for citizenship filed too soon will be denied. In this case, you must wait two years and one day to become eligible for US citizenship if you acquired LPR status through marriage and are still married, or four years and one day for all other categories subject to the five year wait.

Once you qualify for US citizenship and finally become a US citizen, you will no longer have to worry about leaving the United States for more than 180 days per year or an entire year even if you decide to move to another country permanently.

Are you ready to become a US citizen or have questions about becoming one? Schedule a consultation today with one of our immigration attorneys or paralegals by visiting our website or by calling us at 385-334-4030 or 385-285-0054 (WhatsApp). You can also check us out on Facebook @skvlegal and follow us on Instagram @learimmigration.


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