Attorney Jeff Peek discusses two legal terms that could potentially affect permanent residents who want to apply for U.S. citizenship or have been outside the U.S. for an extended period of time.
Those two terms are physical presence and continuous residence. When someone wants to apply for citizenship, they have to prove two things: they need to maintain continuous residency in the United States and maintain physical presence in the United States. While both terms sound similar, they are two separate things.
Continuous residence has to do with where you live, where you establish your domicile or dwelling place. Typically, for a permanent resident applying for citizenship, you have to have five years of continuous residency in the United States. If you are married to a U.S. Citizen, then it’s three years.
Now, what does that mean? If you have been outside of the United States for more than six months, but less than one year, then there is a presumption that you abandoned your continuous residence in the United States. You may overcome that presumption with evidence that you went outside for a job, maintained your house or apartment when you left or had immediate family members that stayed back while you went abroad. It’s a rebuttable presumption, but once you get over a year, you’re not going to rebut that presumption. They will say you are not eligible because you did not maintain your continuous residence here in the United States.
If you’re outside of the United States for more than a year, you can potentially encounter problems when coming back to the United States. When you’re out of the country for more than one year, you probably need to call a lawyer before you try to come back in to see if that’s going to be problematic for you.
Physical presence is that you have to live here more than half the time, more than 50%. So if your period is five years for applying for U.S. citizenship, you will need to be in the United States for at least two and a half years. If it’s three years, because you’re married to a U.S. citizen, it’s one and a half years. That means you will need to count up every physical day you are outside the United States. You will want to check your passport and make sure that’s not going to be an issue. If you’ve spent over 50% of your time outside the United States, it will disqualify you for citizenship.
Physical presence and continuous residency, terms that can affect your citizenship eligibility, and if not followed, you could potentially lose your residence.
If you are a permanent resident and would like to apply for U.S. citizenship or have any immigration questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 512-359-3362 to book a consultation.