One of the most common questions that our citizenship clients ask is whether there are any travel prohibitions after they have filed for naturalization. At the risk of oversimplifying matters, the short answer is that applicants are allowed to travel outside the US even after their N-400 applications are lodged. That being said, individuals need to remain cognizant of the eligibility requirements for naturalization, some of which extend up and through to the time of the interview. In some cases, conduct after an application is filed can seriously impact the application and ultimately form the basis of a denial. When it comes to international travel, remember that an applicant must not only satisfy the physical presence requirement, but also the continuous residence requirement.
The best rule of thumb regarding travel during the pendency of your green card case is not to do so. We have seen a number of individuals unknowingly sabotage their adjustment of status applications by traveling outside the US without taking the proper precautions. The concept is this: when an adjustment of status application is filed with USCIS, the individual is applying to convert his/her status to that of a permanent resident inside the United States. With a few limited exceptions, any trip taken outside the US while the adjustment is pending is normally construed as abandonment of the application. Therefore, it is extremely important that if you have an I-485 pending with USCIS, you remain in the US. Any departure may result in not only a denial of the adjustment application but also potentially obstruct readmission. Worse, a departure may trigger an unlawful presence bar (either three or ten years, depending on the length of time an individual has been unlawfully present) and prevent the individual from re-entering.