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Continuous residence requirement for naturalization

A foreign-born person living in South Carolina as a permanent resident may become a U.S. citizen after living in the U.S. continuously for five years. A permanent resident who is married to a U.S. citizen will only need to wait three years to naturalize. For immigration purposes, 'continuous residence" means that a permanent resident has not taken any trips outside of the country for longer than six months.

If a permanent resident leaves the U.S. for more than six months and then returns, they will usually have to wait longer to naturalize because the period of continuous residence will be reset. There are exceptions to this rule, and some permanent residents can naturalize after taking long trips abroad.

A permanent resident who leaves the country for work with the U.S. government, a military contractor or an American research organization will maintain their continuous residence even if their trip is longer than six months. Other individuals may be able to explain why a trip took longer than six months and still naturalize within the original 3- to 5-year time frame. For example, a permanent resident who had to go abroad for longer than six months due to unexpected circumstances might qualify for an exception to the continuous residence rule. To naturalize, the permanent resident would need to prove that they kept their residence in the United States during their trip.

Naturalizing has many benefits that a person may want to take advantage of as soon as they can. One of the benefits of naturalization is that a person can petition for family members to immigrate to the United States. An attorney may be able to help a permanent resident to apply for naturalization and prepare for all of the steps required to become a U.S. citizen.

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