Impact of Extended Trips Abroad on Naturalization

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I'm a Green Card holder applying for naturalization, do I need a lawyer?

Yes. If you have a criminal record or have had extended trips abroad, you may need a lawyer to help you with your citizenship application.

A common myth in immigration is that Green Card holders (permanent residents) do not need a lawyer when they apply for citizenship. Most think that the naturalization application is a mere formality. 

n reality, it's a lengthy process which includes submitting an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a background check, a test and an interview. Although some applicants have successfully filed by themselves, it could get complicated for others, especially for those who may have issues in meeting the legal requirements for naturalization.

Naturalization Requirements
Naturalization is the process wherein foreign nationals can obtain U.S. citizenship. Not every immigrant is eligible to become a U.S. Citizen. Generally, Green Card holders (Legal Permanent Residents) that have been legal permanent residents for at least five years may apply for citizenship if they meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Show residency for at least 3 months in the state or district where you intend to apply.
  • Demonstrate continuous residence and physical presence in the U.S. for at least 5 years.
  • Can read, write, and speak basic English.
  • Have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
  • Be a person of good moral character.
  • Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution. 

What is continuous residence?
Continuous residence means that the applicant has maintained residence within the U.S. for the required period of time. This period of time is generally, 5 years; 3 years for qualified spouses of U.S. citizens.

Extended absences (6 months or more) outside of the U.S. may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence, whether you intend to abandon your permanent residence or not. This because an applicant’s intent is not relevant in determining the location of his or her residence. The period of absence from the United States is the defining factor in determining whether the applicant is presumed to have disrupted his or her residence. 

What is the physical presence requirement?
In order to qualify for naturalization, an applicant must show that they were physically present for thirty months within the 5-year period or physically present in for eighteen months within the 3-year period for qualified spouses of U.S. citizens. Generally, an applicant for naturalization must have been physically present in the United States for at least half the time for which her continuous residence is required. 

In addition, as noted above, the applicant must show that she has resided for at least 3 months immediately preceding the filing of the naturalization application in the district or state where the applicant claims to have residency.

If you've had extended trips abroad longer than 6 months and are applying for naturalization, you should seek the assistance of an immigration attorney who can advise you on how to best present your case in light of your prior history. Read the first part of our blog post, applying for citizenship with a criminal record.

Do you have questions about immigration, the green card process, and naturalization? If so, please contact us. We are here to help. Follow us on InstagramTwitterFacebook or LinkedIn for up-to-date immigration news.


Rasoulpour Torregoza is the law firm for immigrants, by immigrants. We are founded on the motto of LegalEase: we do away with the legal jargon and make law easy to understand, so you can focus on what’s important to you – going for your American Dream.
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