Becoming a U.S. Permanent Resident of the United States is a very exciting accomplishment- that is until you can't find work, qualified affordable child care, or a close family member abroad falls ill unexpectedly. These are a few of the reasons Permanent Residents often leave the United States for extensive periods of time despite the risk of abandoning their U.S. Permanent Resident Status. Unfortunately, it is a popular myth that U.S. permanent residents need just return to the United States every six months to avoid the risk of being stripped of permanent resident status by U.S. Customs Border & Patrol ("CBP").
It's important to note that the requirements to not lose permanent resident status versus the rules to apply for Naturalization are very different. First, Permanent Residency requires a reentry permit and proof of continuous residency. Working with experienced immigration legal counsel is an essential step before relocating abroad for even a short period of time.
Naturalization, on the other hand, requires consideration of an N-470 to preserve time counting towards citizenship. The residency guidelines are strict to be eligible for Citizenship after extended travel abroad. It is encouraged to always apply for I-131 reentry permit as well. However, to apply for citizenship one must demonstrate the following: 1) Resided continuously in the United States for at least 5 years as a lawful permanent Resident; 2) Have resided for at least 3 months in the State or USCIS District where residency is claimed before filing for Citizenship (N-400); 3)Have resided continuously in the United States from the date of filing N-400 up to the time of administration of the Oath of Allegiance; and 4)be physically present in the United States for at least 21/2 years at the time of filing Form N-400.
To balance and ensure that U.S. Immigration laws are satisfied when travelling abroad, always consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. Have the lawyer explain overlapping and seperate issues dealing with 'not abandoning' U.S. Permanent Status versus becoming 'disqualified from' applying for Naturalization Citizenship. The 6 month 'back and forth' travel game has cost many their status in the United States but the good news is that with proper legal guidance this risk can be eliminated.
Our attorneys are members of the American Immigration Lawyers' Association ("AILA"), and we have over 20 years of experience in U.S. Immigration matters. We are standing by to answer questions. We serve clients through the United States and abroad.