Though there are some substantive requirements for citizenship, the most important one, considered to be the most complex is the residence in the US. A place of general abode of a person is generally termed as residence. In other words, the actual dwelling place of a person is the residence. To apply for US citizenship, a person should be a resident in the US and the specific residence requirements have to be adequately met.
Individuals become citizens automatically if they were born in the US or if their parents were US citizens at their time of birth .If a foreign national wants to become a citizen, it is definitely possible through a process called naturalization after which he/she can enjoy the privileges and the rights that come with the US citizenship.
The requirements to apply for US citizenship:
The basic requirement is that the individual should be a green card holder who is at least 18 years old. The requirements related to residency must be satisfied while applying for citizenship. In normal circumstances, an immigrant should be a permanent resident for five years to be eligible for citizenship. If married to a US citizen, then it is three years of permanent residency. It is that the applicant should be married to a U.S citizen and should be living with that U.S citizen for the past 3 three years of their permanent residency for the criteria to be applicable. The applicant should have lived for at least three months in the same state or USCIS district where the application is going to be filed. Apart from this the other requirements include the good moral character, adequate knowledge of written and spoken English and US history as well as an attachment to the US constitution.
Permanent residents need to maintain continuous residence and physical presence in the US. Traveling freely outside the US and returning within six months is fine; anything more than 6 months will terminate the continuous residence requirement thereby affecting one’s eligibility to apply for US citizenship. Similarly, the applicant has to be physically present in the US for on half of the permanent residence period required (either 5 years of 3 years).
The continuous residence is disrupted in cases where one leaves the US for one year or more in spite of having a re-entry permit. You may be able to enter the US as a permanent resident if you have a re-entry permit but the time you have spent in the US before leaving the US will not be counted towards the continuous residence requirement.
Prior to the application for US citizenship, brief absences from the US are fine. But any absence of 6 months or more can be construed as abandoning residence. An absence of 6 months to one year may be excused if the applicant provides substantial proof that they were not intending to abandon residence in the US. With proper evidence, like continuing the US employment, maintaining a home in the US, family in the US and also filing tax returns is proof that the applicant was not trying to abandon residence.
To conclude, among the requirements to be met in order to qualify for US citizenship the residency requirement are the most important. Ensure that you do not break your continuous residence by staying out of the US for more than a year. Otherwise, the time you accumulated as a permanent resident in the US before you left abroad will have been wasted. Only one of those years will count towards continuous residence and you will still have to stay in the US for 4 years (or 2 years if married to a US citizen) before you can once again think of applying for US citizenship.