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To be eligible to apply for US naturalization in a US district/state, one must have lived/resided for 3 months in that district. I'm confused on how one counts the 3-month requirement to apply for naturalization in a US district/state.

The USCIS A Guide to Naturalization (M-476) states:

Most people must live in the USCIS district or State in which they are applying for at least 3 months before applying. A district is a geographical area.

which is reflected on https://www.uscis.gov/citizenship/learn-about-citizenship/citizenship-and-naturalization/i-am-a-lawful-permanent-resident-of-5-years:

Show you have lived for at least three months in a state or USCIS district having jurisdiction over your place of residence. (If you are a student and are financially dependent on your parents, you may apply for naturalization where you go to school or where your family lives.);

The USCIS Policy Manual Volume 12 - Citizenship and Naturalization Part D - General Naturalization Requirements Chapter 6 - Jurisdiction, Place of Residence, and Early Filing states:

In general, an applicant for naturalization must file his or her application for naturalization with the state or service district that has jurisdiction over his or her place of residence. The applicant must have resided in that location for at least three months prior to filing.

[...] The applicant’s “residence” refers to the applicant’s principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent. [3] The duration of an applicant’s residence in a particular location is measured from the moment the applicant first establishes residence in that location. [4]

If someone established their residency in a US state, stayed there for 2.5 months, went outside the US for 2 weeks, and came back, does that count at 2.5 months or 3 months of residency? I.e., can they apply right away for naturalization (i.e., submit Form N-400) when they come back, or do they have to wait two weeks?

Assume that no special cases are at play (no inter-state commuting, no student, no military, no spouse of military and not a multi-state resident).

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The phrase "principal, actual dwelling place" means where you normally live. If you go to Tokyo for a week for a holiday, you don't say that you lived in Tokyo last week.

Be prepared with a good answer in case the interview officer asks you about very recent travel. Remember that you are applying for citizenship, and a very narrow view of citizenship might include the attitude of "why would you want to go anywhere else?"

Poor answer: I went to Japan last week to check out the new apartment my friend is setting up so we can move there for a few years while training. I need to get my citizenship first before actually moving there so I won't lose my green card.

Still not a great answer: I went to Tokyo last week because my friend lives there and wants me to train with him at his Kendo academy.

Better answer: I went to Tokyo last week to visit a friend. He had some time off from his job and that was the best time for both of us.

Choose your answer such that it generally aligns with the best interests of the United States.

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Immihelp.com forum user Enub4  pointed me to from https://www.uscis.gov/policy-manual/volume-12-part-d-chapter-6 section 6:

An applicant's residence during any absence abroad of less than one year will continue to be the state or service district where the applicant resided before departure. If the applicant returns to the same residence, he or she will have complied with the three-month jurisdictional residence requirement when at least three months have elapsed, including any part of the absence, from when the applicant first established that residence.

If the applicant establishes residence in a different state or service district from where he or she last resided, the applicant must reside three months at that new residence before applying in order to meet the three-month jurisdictional residence requirement.

The text refers to https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-8/chapter-I/subchapter-C/part-316/section-316.2#p-316.2(a)(5):

Return to the United States. If, upon returning to the United States, an applicant returns to the State or Service district where the applicant last resided, the applicant will have complied with the continuous residence requirement specified in § 316.2(a)(5) when at least three months have elapsed, including any part of the applicant's absence, from the date on which the applicant first established that residence. If the applicant establishes residence in a State or Service district other than the one in which he or she last resided, the applicant must complete three months at that new residence to be eligible for naturalization.

This means that e.g. if someone established their residency in a US state, stayed there for 2.5 months, went outside the US for 2 weeks, and came back, then it counts as 3 months of residency, i.e. they can submit the N-400 right when they come back. More generally, if someone established their residency in a US state, stayed there for x months, went outside the US for y months, and came back, then it counts as 3 months of residency (i.e. they can submit the N-400 right when they come back) iff x+y=3. In other words, the 3 months of residency requirement is satisfied iff x+y ≥ 3.

This is echoed in 8 CFR 316.5(b)(5)(i):

(5) Residence during absences of less than one year.

(i) An applicant's residence during any absence of less than one year shall continue to be the State or Service district where the applicant last resided at the time of the applicant's departure abroad.

(ii) Return to the United States. If, upon returning to the United States, an applicant returns to the State or Service district where the applicant last resided, the applicant will have complied with the continuous residence requirement specified in § 316.2(a)(5) when at least three months have elapsed, including any part of the applicant's absence, from the date on which the applicant first established that residence. If the applicant establishes residence in a State or Service district other than the one in which he or she last resided, the applicant must complete three months at that new residence to be eligible for naturalization.

Note that the naturalization requirement use the term "physically present" when they mean that one must be physically present. The terms "live" and "reside" don't entail physical presence. E.g., see 8 CFR 316.2(a)(4), which pertains to the 30-month physical presence requirement:

(4) Has been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months of the five years preceding the date of filing the application;

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