Typically, becoming a U.S. citizen requires the applicant to live in the United States continuously for five years (three years for those married to a U.S. citizen). An absence from the United States of more than one year will break your continuous residence. An absence between six months and one year will create a presumption that you have broken your continuous residence, but you will have the opportunity to overcome that presumption. But what about extended absences due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 Could Affect Your Naturalization Application
With lockdowns and border closings, many foreign citizens were shut out of the U.S. for an extended amount of time. If you were abroad when COVID-19 hit and have been out of the country, you could face some issues with your naturalization process.
Anyone who has been gone for less than six months should consider revisiting the U.S. now that travel has opened back up to retain their “continuous” U.S. residence. If you have been out of the country for more than 6 months, however, you’ll have to consider other options to preserve your naturalization status.
What to Do if You Have Been Absent Between Six Months and One Year
USCIS will presume that you have broken the continuity of your presence in the U.S. if you have been out of the country for more than six months but less than one year, and they haven’t carved out many exceptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is still possible to establish that you did not break your continuous residence in the U.S., despite the absence.
If you can show USCIS that you still have ties to the U.S. – a job, family in the U.S., or an apartment or house that you didn’t give up during your absence – as well as providing a reasonable explanation for why you needed to remain abroad for an extended period, you may establish that you have not abandoned your continuous residency.
Talk to an Immigration Attorney about Extended Absences Due to COVID
Getting in touch with an immigration attorney is the best way to learn about your options for the naturalization process if you have extended absences due to COVID-19. Acting quickly and ensuring that you have documentation about your travels abroad and ties to the U.S. could help you keep all your possibilities on the table. To speak with an experienced immigration attorney, contact The Law Offices of Robert Bell, P.A. at (954) 241-4209.