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Continuous residence requirement for naturalization

Permanent residents living in South Carolina may be able to naturalize after five years of living in the United States. Green card holders who are married to a U.S. citizen spouse are only required to live in the United States for three years before applying for citizenship. Before naturalizing, both types of applicants must meet the 'continuous residence" and 'physical presence" requirements.

The continuous residence requirement is met when a green card holder resides in the U.S. for three or five years with no trips abroad that lasted longer than six months. An applicant for naturalization who was away from the U.S. for longer than six months but less than one year may be able to explain the trip in the application. However, a trip abroad that lasts longer than one year usually breaks the period of continuous residence and disqualifies an applicant from being able to naturalize.

Applicants for naturalization meet the physical presence requirement if they can prove that they have lived in the U.S. for at least half of the last three or five years. The physical presence requirement and the continuous residence requirement may be waived for certain types of applicants including religious workers, military service members, military spouses and U.S. government employees.

A person who is applying for U.S. citizenship after a three or five-year period of continuous residence may want to have representation from an attorney. If the applicant traveled abroad at some point during the last few years, an attorney may be able to help the applicant prove that they maintained their residence in the U.S. during the trip. An attorney may also be able to help a green card holder who was denied citizenship appeal the decision.

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