Continuous residence as a permanent resident

Re-Entry Permit and the Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes

1. Continuous Residence

Continuous residence means that you must live in the U.S. as a permanent resident for a certain period of time. Most people must be permanent residents in continuous residence for five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen) before they can begin the naturalization process. For refugees, this means five years from the date you arrived in the U.S., which is usually the date you obtained permanent resident status. For those granted asylum status in the U.S., this period begins one year before you got permanent resident status. The date on your Permanent Resident Card is the date your five years begins. If you leave the United States for a long period of time, usually six months or more, you may "break" your continuous residence. If you leave the United States for one year or longer, you are only allowed to return to the United States with a re-entry permit. You must apply for this re-entry permit before you leave the United States. In most cases, none of the time you were in the United States before you left the country for a long period of time will count toward your time in continuous residence. This means that you will need to begin your continuous residence again after you return to the United States and you may have to wait up to four years and one day before you can apply for naturalization.

TIP: A re-entry permit (Form I-131) and the Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes (Form N-470) are not the same. You may show a re-entry permit instead of your Permanent Resident Card (if you have been gone for less than 12 months) or instead of a visa (if you have been gone for more than 12 months) when you return to the United States after a temporary absence.

Be aware that absences from the United States while your naturalization application is pending could cause problems with your eligibility, especially if you accept employment abroad.

If you leave the U.S. for:

Your resident status is:              

 

To keep your staus you must:

More than six months

Possibly broken

 

Prove that you continued to live, work, and/or have ties to the U.S. (e.g. paid taxes) while you were away.

 

More than one year       

 

Broken

In most cases, your status as a continuous residence ends and will begin again when you return. Apply for a re-entry permit before you leave if you plan to return to the U.S. as a permanent resident.

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