U.S. just updated a key requirement that could delay an immigrant’s path to citizenship

These are the requirements necessary to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization. Check them out. By Marta Oliver Craviotto | Daniel Shoer Roth

One of the essential requirements to obtain U.S. citizenship through naturalization is that immigrants demonstrate continuous residence and physical presence in the United States for a required period of time before submitting the application.

Immigration law stipulates that immigrants generally must have maintained residence within the U.S. uninterruptedly after his or her lawful permanent resident admission for at least five years prior to applying for citizenship.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) clarified this requirement on Wednesday, issuing a policy alert in the agency’s Policy Manual addressing the effect of breaks in continuity of residence on eligibility for naturalization.

“This update concerns absences of more than six months but less than one year during the statutorily required continuous residence period,” the Department of Homeland Security’s agency said in a press release.

Get unlimited digital access for just $3.99 a month to #ReadLocal anytime, on any device.

Physical presence to obtain citizenship

According to USCIS, immigrants who want to be American citizens, when applying for naturalization, must demonstrate that:

▪ They have resided continuously in the U.S. for five years before applying, or

▪ They have resided continuously in the U.S. for three years in the case of qualified spouses of U.S. citizens

New policy update in USCIS’ Manual

This update addresses when an applicant who has broken their residence continuity can reapply for citizenship.

The policy, according to USCIS, now clarifies two requirements for naturalization:

▪ An immigrant who has been absent from the U.S. for more than six months but less than a year must overcome the presumption that they have broken the continuity of their residence.

▪ An immigrant who has broken the continuity of U.S. residence must establish a new period of continuous residence, the length of which depends on the basis for naturalizing.

“USCIS adjudicators have always been required to determine whether naturalization applicants have broken their continuous residence when evaluating naturalization applications,” said the agency in a statement.

“An applicant filing under the general naturalization provision is not eligible until they have reached the required period of continuous residence as a lawful permanent resident,” USCIS clarified.

What are other key requirements for naturalization?

An applicant must:

▪ Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing.;

▪ Show good moral character. This means a clean criminal record for the previous five years, and not submitting false information as part of any immigration form or procedure. (A person with an aggravated felony is ineligible for naturalization.);

▪ Be able to read, write and speak basic English, and show knowledge of U.S. history and government;

▪ Be willing to support and defend the United States and the U.S. Constitution.


How to apply for U.S. citizenship

To apply for naturalization, legal residents must submit, by mail or online, Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The form must be properly filled in, strictly following these USCIS instructions.

The form must be submitted along with $725 fee payment, which includes $85 for the biometric services. USCIS accepts money orders, credit cards, personal and bank checks payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The application also has to include all evidence and supporting documentation listed. Do not send original documents unless specifically required.

Some of these documents are:

▪ Copy of the permanent resident card, known as a green card.

▪ Copy of current legal marital status document.

▪ Documents for armed forces members or their spouses, such as certification of military or naval service using Form N-426.

Changes in citizenship test, and new reasons for denials

Permanent residents who apply for citizenship after December 2020 will face a more challenging test — in which immigrants must prove they can read, write and speak basic English, and have essential knowledge of U.S. history and government — because of a review of the current exam ordered by immigration officials.

A memorandum titled “Revision of the Naturalization Civics Tests” announced there would be changes in the exam questions about the U.S. government and history, as well as the oral test of knowledge of the English language.

USCIS also expanded the list of behaviors that would reflect an absence of good moral character — one of the key requirements for naturalization. The new guidance details 15 examples of “unlawful acts” that adversely reflect on moral character.

*See full story by Miami Herald