Traveling Abroad During the Naturalization Process
The naturalization process has many factors that are considered, including your continuous residency in the U.S. and your physical presence in the country. If you are applying for citizenship, you must meet these requirements, but it is possible that extended travel abroad may harm your eligibility for citizenship. Find out how your travel plans can hurt your naturalization application.
What Is Considered Continuous Residence?
One requirement you will need to meet is continuous residence. You must maintain 5 consecutive years of residence immediately prior to the date of application unless you are married to a U.S. citizen.
If you are married to a citizen, this period is reduced to 3 years. Maintaining continuous residence as a lawful permanent resident is used to gauge your true desire to become a citizen and join the American community, and to gain citizenship for other reasons besides the benefits.
What Is Considered Physical Presence?
In addition to maintaining continuous residence in the U.S., you must also spend 30 cumulative months in the U.S. in the 5 years prior to applying for citizenship. For those married to U.S. citizens, this time is only 18 months.
Physical presence is used to establish that you are looking to make the United States your home, and have spent time in the country and culture to assimilate.
How Travel Abroad May Disrupt Your Naturalization Process
Travel can disrupt both of the above requirements if you are not careful. Typically, trips under 6 months long will not cause problems. Ensure that your green card will not expire before your return, and you should be able to re-enter the country. For trips longer than 6 months, it is possible that your eligibility may be threatened.
If you are planning on traveling for more than 6 months, but less than 12 months, your eligibility for naturalization may be questioned.
A 6-month trip is enough to disrupt your continuous residence in the U.S., and it is possible that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers may consider you to have abandoned your permanent resident status in the U.S. There are some ways that you may be able to preserve your status in the event that a trip will last more than 6 months.
To avoid losing your status as a lawful permanent resident, you must provide proof that you did not abandon your residence in the U.S. and that you consider the U.S. to be your primary country of residence.
Evidence that may be used includes:
- Your continued employment in the United States. If you terminate your job in the U.S. or seek employment abroad, you may not be able to use this as proof
- Your immediate family remained in the U.S.
- You retained full access to your U.S. residence
If you are planning on leaving the U.S. for a year, you will become ineligible for naturalization until it has been 4 years and 1 day after the return date of your trip, assuming that you have returned to resume permanent residence. If you are planning a trip abroad, consult your immigration attorney to ensure that you are protected from losing your immigration status and your continuous residency status.
Exceptions to Naturalization Requirements
It is possible that you may be exempt from residency and presence requirements for immigrants who are:
- Members of the U.S. armed forces
- Researchers for American research organizations
- Religious workers
- Government employees
- And certain business travelers
For these requirements to be waived, you must work for or contract with a company or organization that meets specific conditions. You must also be physically present for an uninterrupted year in the U.S as a lawful permanent resident prior to working abroad. Contact your immigration lawyer to learn about these exemptions and to find out if you may be eligible for one.
Speak to an Experienced Dallas Immigration Attorney
At Akula & Associates, P.C., we’re ready to help you with your naturalization process and answer any questions you may have. The path to citizenship can be winding and full of bureaucracy, but we are dedicated to being there for our clients every step of the way.
Our Dallas immigration attorneys are backed by more than 20 collective years of experience in immigration law, so you can trust that we have the skill to handle your case. Our team-based approach and state-of-the-art technology offer you resourceful and efficient legal representation. Learn more about how we can help you protect your residency status and maintain your eligibility for naturalization by contacting our team today.
Contact our offices today to request a consultation with our experienced team. Call (844) 299-5003.