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USCIS clarifies effect of breaks in continuity of residence on eligibility for naturalization

  1. Original Date Announced

    February 26, 2020

    USCIS issued policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to address naturalization applicants’ absences from the United States of more than six months but less than a year during the statutorily required continuous residence period.

    Policy highlights include:

    • Clarifies that naturalization applicants absent from the United States during the statutory period for more than 6 months but less than 1 year, must overcome the presumption that the continuity of residence has been broken in order to remain eligible for naturalization.
    • Clarifies that an applicant who USCIS determines to have broken the continuity of residence must establish a new period of continuous residence; the requisite duration of that period depends on the basis upon which the applicant seeks to naturalize.[ID #664]

    USCIS Policy Alert: Effect of Breaks in Continuity of Residence on Eligibility for Naturalization 2020.02.26 USCIS Policy Manual - Volume 12, Part D, Chapter 3
  2. Effective Date

    February 26, 2020
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  4. Biden Administration Action: Modified

    May 25, 2021

    2021.05.25 Preserving Continuous Residence and Physical Presence for Purposes of Naturalization while Engaged in Religious Duties Outside the United States

    This Biden administration policy modifies the Trump-era policy identified in this entry.

    On May 25, 2021, USCIS announced an update to Chapter Three of its Policy Manual. The change states that individuals who are abroad for a year or more performing "ministerial or priestly functions" may treat this time abroad as continuous residence and physical presence in the United States for naturalization purposes.

    View Document
  5. Biden Administration Action: Modified

    May 28, 2021

    USCIS Policy Manual Chapter 5 - Modifications and Exceptions to Continuous Residence and Physical Presence

    This Biden administration policy modifies the Trump-era policy identified in this entry.

    On May 28, 2021, USCIS updated Chapter Three of its Policy Manual to more clearly lay out the exceptions to continuous residence and physical presence requirements for naturalization, and to include individuals who are abroad for a year or more performing "ministerial or priestly functions."

    View Document

Current Status

Partially in effect
May 25, 2021
Acted on by Biden Administration
May 28, 2021
Acted on by Biden Administration

Original Trump Policy Status

Status: Final/Actual
Trump Administration Action: Agency Directive
Subject Matter: Naturalization
Agencies Affected: USCIS

Pre Trump-Era Policies

  • February 5, 2020

    Previous guidance on eligibility after a break in residence, stated "An applicant who is required to establish continuous residence for at least 5 years and whose application for naturalization is denied for an absence of one year or longer, may apply for naturalization four years and one day after returning to the United States to resume permanent residence." Under the new guidance, an applicant must not only wait four years and one day before filing, but since the period of absence is still more than 6 months, an applicant for naturalization in these circumstances must also overcome the presumption of a break in the continuity of residence.

    USCIS Policy Manual - Volume 12, Part D, Chapter 3 as of February 5, 2020

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