One of the most confusing concepts regarding eligibility for naturalization are the independe physical and continuous presence requirements needed for US Citizenship. They are two separate doctrines and each must be satisfied before an application for naturalization is recommended for approval. It is entirely possible to satisfy the physical presence requirement but not meet the continuous presence prong. Conversely, one may be able show the necessary continuous presence but may have applied too early to fulfill the physical presence requirement.
What exactly is a long trip?
It is not as if lawful permanent residents are prohibited from travel. Green Card Holders, contrary to some misconceptions, are actually allowed to travel freely. The problem arises, however, when a permanent resident spends more time outside than inside the United States, which may give rise to the notion that he/she has abandoned his/her permanent residence here. Moreover, if a green card holder stays outside the US for one year or longer without securing a re-entry permit, the government may try to revoke the person's permanent residence. Even trips that are six months or more may raise issues as to an individual's domicile.
What is the effect of a long trip on the N-400?
If a permanent resident has traveled outside the US for an uninterrupted period of one year or more-even with a re-entry permit-USCIS will consider that person to have disrupted the continuous presence requirement. (There are exceptions, which will be covered in the future). The applicant will normally have to wait at least four years and one day before considering eligibility to apply.
If an applicant has traveled for an uninterrupted period of six months or more, but less than one year, he or she will have to demonstrate proof of residence. In other words, the person will have to show that he/she did not abandon residence in the US and that the US is the primary place of residence.
Be aware that USCIS officers look at all trips carefully and are keen on several trips which appear calculated to take less than six months. So for example, if an applicant has traveled outside for 5 months and 20 days, returns to the US for 10 ten days, and leaves again for another 5 months, the officer may consider those two separate trips as actually one long trip of more than 10 months.
Proof of Residence
This is easier said than done. It is not enough to just tell the officer that you did not abandon the US. You must prove it. This can be especially for challenging for individuals who don't work. For example, we have many elderly clients who don't work and don't have bank accounts here because they are being supported by their adult children. Our office has to assemble a package of documentation that includes
· Tax Returns
· Medical Records
· Any other documentary proof indicating the applicant permanently resides here in the US, even though he/she was physically present in another country.
It is important to understand that even if the applicant passes the English and civics portions of the N-400, the officer adjudicating the case may nevertheless deny the application if there is not sufficient proof of residence. When faced with these issues, it may be worthwhile to consult with our office to assess the documentary proofs, reasons for travel, and viability of applying at this time.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the "Subscribe To This Blog's Feed" button on the left. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship nor should it be relied upon as legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the "Case Evaluation" box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.