Green card holders and lawful permanent residents in the United States need to be aware that if and when they decide to apply for U.S. citizenship via naturalization, one of the core requirements is proving to the USCIS that you meet the definition of having continuous residence in the United States.
There are three possibilities for the circumstances in which one has to prove their residency, or can in the case of military service forgo this process:
1. The individual in question is, and has been married to a U.S. citizen, in which case the N-400 applicant will need to prove their continuous residence for only the past three years.
2. The individual in question is not married, or if they are not single they are still not legally married (meaning they don’t hold a marriage certificate), in which the N-400 applicant will need to prove their continuous residency inside the United States for the past five years leading up to the start of the naturalization application.
3. The individual in question was in the U.S. Armed Forces and received an honorable discharge, in which case they should consult an immigration expert or attorney to see how to proceed with their case. More information regarding this scenario can be found here: https://www.uscis.gov/military/naturalization-through-military-service
While it is more common for applicants to be without military service, some steps that applicants should ensure that there is evidence for their residency is to first and foremost save, and have scanned copies of leases that have been signed-in the applicant's name. For example, if an individual has moved from New York City to another state during the five years they have been an LPR, they need to have evidence of their rental periods in every state they have lived. Failure to do so will be considered incomplete on the N-400 application.
If applicants are unable to find copies of their leases, they should make contact via email with the leasing companies they signed with to see if they will provide documentation of their rental history.
In addition, applicants who are in the process of filing their N-400 need to be aware of the conditionalities surrounding domestic and international travel. While there are no rules for domestic travel in terms of limiting one's ability to prove continuous residency, international travel poses more of a risk.
For example, it is common that LPRs travel to their home country to visit family and loved ones or to see relatives who are in need of assistance. For annual visits that do not comprise long periods of time, and look reasonable to USCIS officials, there is usually no suspicion. However, if an applicant is spending several months outside of the U.S. during their LPR status, it might cause questions to be raised by reviewing officers about such an applicant’s credibility when it comes to the continuous residence.
Continuous residence means that an individual is making America their home during the time of their green card admittance, and not making multiple countries their home. As such, applicants should be able to approximate, at least, the time they have spent outside of the United States, and show immigration officials their travel documents that have been issued by USCIS.
Federal tax returns can also help prove continuous residency, although are not the first tier of evidence (leasing history is). Your tax returns show that you have been inside the United States working for certain fiscal periods.