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Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

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  • Writer's pictureParviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

4 Year & 1 Day Rule for U.S. Naturalization

If you're considering applying for US naturalization and have spent a significant amount of time outside the United States in the last five years, it's important to understand the concept of the “four-year and one-day rule.”

This rule may apply to you if you’re a legal permanent resident (i.e. a green card holder) looking to apply for U.S. naturalization and you’ve had an absence of six months or longer after you became a legal permanent resident. This rule often leads to confusion among applicants, and some may not even be aware of its existence. In this article, we will clarify what the 4 year and 1 day rule entails and how it applies to the process of U.S. naturalization.

Note: if you want to skip the reading and talk to a professional right away, click here to request a consultation with Malakouti Law.

Understanding Continuous Residence

As a green card holder and a legal permanent resident applying for naturalization, you are generally required to demonstrate five years of continuous residence in the United States [Source: INA 316(a(1))]. Continuous residence means that the United States has been your primary place of abode.

The continuous residence requirement is related to but separate from the physical presence requirement for naturalization eligibility.

In addition to continuous residence, a naturalization applicant must prove that they’ve spent more time in the United States than outside the United States during the applicable “statutory period." The statutory period is the five years prior to filing a U.S. naturalization applicant, or three years if you have been married to a U.S. citizen [Sources: INA 319(a), 8 CFR 319.1(a)(3)].

Breaking Continuous Residence

If you remain outside the United States continuously for more than six months at a time, it is presumed that you have broken the period of continuous residence [Source: INA 316(b)].

In some cases, an applicant is able to rebut that presumption and still successfully naturalize. At Malakouti Law, we’ve had success helping clients rebut the presumption of broken continuous residence by preparing a convincing package of documents to show that the applicant maintained strong ties to the United States while abroad.

However, a continuous absence from the United States of longer than one year as a legal permanent resident (green card holder) creates an irrebuttable presumption of having broken continuous residence. In such cases, the general rule is that you must start over and establish five years of continuous residence from the time you return to the country after your extended absence.

The Four Year and One Day Rule

The four-year and one-day rule comes into play when you have broken your continuous residence by staying outside the United States continuously for more than six months. This rule provides an advantage, allowing you to apply for naturalization after waiting for just four years and one day from the date of your return to the United States, rather than the standard five years [Source: 8 CFR 316.5(c)(1)(ii)].

Essentially, if you broke your continuous residence, the four-year and one-day rule shortens the waiting period by one year. It offers an opportunity to become eligible for naturalization sooner, provided that you meet all the other requirements for citizenship.

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Request a Consultation With Malakouti Law

Navigating the intricacies of US naturalization and understanding the rules and exceptions can be complex.

If you’re in a situation in which you think the four-year and one-day rule may apply to you, it is advisable to seek professional guidance from an immigration attorney. Feel free to book a consultation with us here.

Each immigration and citizenship case is particular and you should consult with a qualified immigration and citizenship lawyer about your case before taking any steps. The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Attorney marketing.

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