How to Prove “Continuous Residence” in a Naturalization (N-400) Application
Updated: Jul 11
By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.
One of the several requirements to qualify for naturalization in the U.S. is that you have to have been in a period of continuous residence (not to be confused with the other requirement of physical presence) in the five years (3 years, if married to a U.S. citizen) before submitting your application for naturalization.
A well-prepared naturalization application will have documentary evidence of continuous residence, especially if the applicant has been absent from the United States continuously for more than six months (more on that below).
However, sometimes applicants will apply for naturalization without a lawyer, and get a dreaded N-14 or a Request for Evidence (“RFE”) or a “Notice of Continuance” stating that an applicant hasn’t proven that they were continuously present during the relevant five year “statutory period” and asking applicants to prove their case.
(Notice of Continuance, Page 1)
(Notice of Continuance, Page 2)
Getting such a letter from USCIS can be stressful and there is typically a short deadline to reply. Failing to respond typically results in a denial. Submitting a strong response that addresses the letter’s challenge is critical.
Below, I explain how it’s done.
What USCIS Wants
USCIS often challenges a naturalization applicant’s continuous residence when the applicant has had a continuous absence from the United States of more than six months while he or she was a legal permanent resident (i.e. a green card holder). That’s because USCIS doubts whether a green card holder is “really” a resident in the United States if he or she spends more than half a year outside the U.S. continuously.
In these instances, the N-14 or RFE will ask for the applicant to submit evidence of having maintained continuous residence by the deadline specified. It’s important to read the USCIS letter carefully to understand what is being requested.
When USCIS challenges an applicant’s continuous residence during the “statutory period”, the applicant can respond with evidence showing they maintain residence in the United States even during the period they were traveling abroad.
This evidence can include:
The applicant did not terminate his or her employment in the United States or obtain employment while abroad;
The applicant’s immediate family members remained in the United States; and
The applicant retained full access to or continued to own or lease a home in the United States.
These three types of evidence above are strong, and should be the first focus when gathering evidence. But, there are other, not as strong, but still valuable, ways to prove continuous residence.
Note: an absence of more than one year that doesn't fall into a permissible exception, will present an irrebutible presumption of having broken continuous residence. The four year and 1 day rule will determine when the applicant will be eligible to apply for naturalization.
Other Types of Evidence That Can Help
There’s no limit to the type of documentary evidence an applicant can submit to USCIS so applicants should think broadly and creatively when pursuing documentary evidence. But the evidence needs to be RELEVANT.
The question, roughly phrased, can be considered:
What evidence do I have to show that I was still basing my life in the United States when I was abroad and intending to come back to the United States without basing my life elsewhere?
Such evidence can include:
U.S income tax reporting
Continued home lease or mortgage in the U.S.
Continued maintenance of U.S. bank checking or savings accounts
Continued payment of health insurance in the U.S.
Continued payment of U.S. cell phone bill
Two way airfare ticket contemplating a trip of under six months
There’s also no limit on the amount of evidence an applicant can submit. Generally, the more relevant evidence you submit, the better.
It pays to brainstorm all the relevant evidence you might have that shows your continued life in the United States even when you were outside of the country. In our experience, a successful response to an N-14 also involves a lot of searching through paper records and email inboxes for records that the applicant may have even forgotten.
Each case is different and should be considered uniquely by a qualified immigration lawyer.
Records & Declarations
An applicant’s response to the N-14 or RFE should present the evidence in the form of documents. The best type of documentation is contemporaneous records proving the applicant always maintained continuous residence in the United States. Contemporaneous records means documents created at the time of the event or circumstance they’re proving (even if the document is printed at a later date).
Examples would be:
A dated receipt for a car insurance payment;
A dated lease agreement signed by applicant;
Dated school records of a child showing his attendance in the United States.
Applicants can also submit sworn declarations from themselves and from others with relevant first hand knowledge regarding the continuous residency.
An example of this would be a declaration from the applicant’s adult son attesting to the fact that the applicant was delayed in returning to the United States because she was helping care for an elderly sibling abroad. This is a real example from a client we represented recently in which we responded to the N-14 and were able to overcome the challenge to continuous residence and get the client approved for naturalization. Sworn declarations must follow certain formalities to be accepted by USCIS, and obviously they must be true statements.
In addition to relevant written records and sworn declarations, for our clients, we also write a short cover letter that:
Clearly lists all the evidence;
Explains the importance and relevance of the evidence;
Makes a legal argument as to why the applicant maintained residence in the United States.
As always, we follow the philosophy that a USCIS adjudicator is more likely to approve a case if you make it easier to do so by presenting all documents and arguments clearly.
Request a Consultation with Malakouti Law
We have lots of experience helping people get approved for U.S. citizenship, even if they've spent longer than six months outside of the United States as a green card holder.
We are experts in this.
If you'd like to get to the bottom of your own situation and possibly have us handle your case, request a consultation with us right away.
Continuous Residence FAQs
Q: If I get an N-14 or request for evidence after my naturalization interview, will I have to go to a second interview?
Sometimes you can have another interview whereas sometimes you’ll get a decision on your case without another interview. In our experience, more often there is not a second interview.
Q: I can explain why I was outside of the U.S. for so long. Can I respond to the N-14 or RFE with a letter explaining?
Yes, as part of your response, you can submit a sworn declaration however, it must follow certain formalities to be recognized by USCIS and it’s recommended you consult with a lawyer to make sure you don’t make a statement that can be used against you.
Q: Can USCIS challenge my continuous residence if I took an international trip for less than six consecutive months?
Technically yes, although such a challenge tends to be rare.
Q: Does getting a Notice of Continuance mean my case will certainly be denied?
No, not necessarily. However, responding with strong evidence is a must.
Q: Can I hire an immigration lawyer to help me with this?
Yes, and in most cases it’s the prudent course of action. You can book a consultation with us here.
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. Each immigration case is particular and you should consult with a qualified, licensed immigration lawyer about your case before taking any steps.
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