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If a naturalization applicant has stayed in the US only for 30 months + epsilon (e.g., a few days) over the past 5 years, is it likely to derail their application (assume all stays abroad were below 6 months) or is it a guaranteed naturalization acceptance, assuming the rest of the N-400 is ok?


According to the N-400 instructions (mirror), section "Required Evidence" Item 7E on page 12-13 (thanks to user102008 for pointing to it), issues seem to only potentially arise if one stay outside the US for over 180 days:

E. Trips Outside the United States. Bring evidence that you maintained your continuous residence in the United States if you have taken any trips outside the United States that lasted more than 6 months but less than 1 year.

You may submit documentation which includes, but is not limited to, evidence that during the absence:

  1. You did not terminate your employment in the United States or work overseas;

  2. Your immediate family remained in the United States; or

  3. You retained full access to your place of residence in the United States. For example:

    1. An IRS tax return transcript or an IRS-certified tax return listing tax information relevant to your absence for the last 5 years (or 3 years if you are applying on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen);
    2. Rent or mortgage payments and pay statements;
    3. Bank, credit card, and loan statements showing regular transactions;
    4. Proof of car registration and insurance;
    5. A photocopy of your passport showing entry and exit stamps; or
    6. Any other document that shows you have not abandoned your residence in the United States

so I wonder whether trips below 180 days matter at all when going through the US naturalization process.

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    Remember that the process is designed to find out whether you really lived in the US. It's not intended to penalize you for taking the occasional overseas vacation. But if you were spending large amounts of time abroad, perhaps multiple months at a time, they're going to ask whether you really live in the US. In that case, the documentation helps establish that despite the long absences, you've put down roots in the US. – Kyralessa Jul 16 at 7:07
  • @Kyralessa I wonder whether, assuming one has the proper documentation (specifically, proof of US employment, proof of US abode, and no partner/kids outside the US), staying in the US only for 30 months + epsilon is pretty much sure not to cause any issue. – Franck Dernoncourt Jul 16 at 7:12
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    When you were outside the US, was it all in one place, or was it a lot of travel to many different places? I would expect this to make a difference too. The more places you lived in during that 30 months, the easier it'll be to make a case that the US is your "home base" when you're not travelling. – Kyralessa Jul 16 at 7:14
  • @Kyralessa Great point. Up to now, many different places, but I may focus on just 2 or 3 places afterward. So I'm interested in the two extremes (many different places vs. 1 place, which isn't birth country). – Franck Dernoncourt Jul 16 at 7:16
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Avoiding any trip over 180 days outside the country does let you avoid an automatic presumption of being ineligible for naturalization, but it does not guarantee that you will be considered eligible. The overriding concern, in both cases, is whether you maintained a continuous residence, and "continuous residence" is not defined by the length of the trips.


The current USCIS Policy Manual (Volume 12 part D Chapter 3, archived) explains the difference in the way absences from the country of different lengths are to be handled by USCIS, with references to the relevant laws. It says:

An absence of more than 6 months (more than 180 days) but less than 1 year (less than 365 days) during the period for which continuous residence is required (also called “the statutory period”) is presumed to break the continuity of such residence.

This means that the burden of proof is on the applicant when they've spent more than 180 days abroad. If they can't demonstrate to USCIS that they've maintained continuous US residence, their application for naturalization is supposed to be denied. This is why the form instructions highlight the need to bring documentation, so as to demonstrate in that case why you should still be eligible for naturalization.

Footnote 25 of that chapter addresses absences less than 6 months:

An applicant who has not been absent from the United States for any single period of greater than 6 months during the statutory period is neither considered nor presumed to have broken the continuity of his or her residence. However, there are circumstances in which an applicant who has multiple absences of less than 6 months each during the statutory period may nevertheless have broken the continuity of his or her residence even though the presumption does not apply.

As long as you have no trips over 180 days, you avoid the automatic presumption of being ineligible. But that doesn't rule out the possibility of your shorter trips being considered to break your continuity of residence.

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