Travel Abroad Affects Citizenship Eligibility

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For a Lawful Permanent Resident wishing to become a citizen through Naturalization, there is a time period that the Lawful Permanent Resident must remain living in the USA. What's more, the Lawful Permanent Resident must be living in the United States continuously in the USA.

There are different wait times that a Lawful Permanent Resident must wait before he or she can apply for naturalization. It all depends on which way the Lawful Permanent Resident is attempting to become Naturalized. The wait time for a Lawful Permanent Resident wishing to become a Citizen through marriage for example normally has a shorter wait time before he or she can apply for Naturalization.

The applicant must keep in mind that he or she needs to establish continuous residence in the USA before he or she applies for citizenship.

Establishing continuous residency does not mean that an applicant is not allowed to leave the USA and travel abroad. The US government is aware that a Lawful Permanent Resident may have family that lives abroad and he or she may wish to visit them. The US government does not wish to keep potential future Citizens prisoners in the USA. However, the US government does not wish to hand out citizenship to people who are not genuine in becoming Citizens.

If a Lawful Permanent Resident is going to leave the country to travel abroad, he or she must keep in mind not to extend their stay abroad for too long. For example, taking a trip abroad that is less than 6 months probably will not break the continuous residence requirement. Any trip longer than 6 months increases the likelihood that the continuous residency requirement will be disrupted.

The US government is also aware of some tricks that a Lawful Permanent Resident may try in order to keep their continuous residency and travel abroad for extended periods of time. For example, if a Lawful Permanent Resident travels out of the country for four and a half months, returns to the USA for a few weeks, then travels again for another four months run the risk of having their continuous residence status disrupted. The government officer reviewing the applicants file may see this and count it as one long continuous trip. Meaning these two trips would be counted as one 8-month trip, seriously jeopardizing the continuous residency requirement.

There may be reasons why an applicant travels abroad for extended periods of time. Some examples may be a serious illness to an immediate family member (Parent, sibling, or child for example). An Immigration officer may need proof to justify the extended travel abroad and using his or her discretion may allow the applicant to continue his or her established continuous residency in the USA.

The government uses this requirement to help determine if the applicant really wishes to become a US citizen and not just take advantage of all the benefits that comes from being a citizen. By making the continuous residence requirement so long, the US government expects the applicant to make connections with the community, to establish “roots” in the community. For most people, once they have established “roots” in a community it makes it difficult to just up and move out of the country.

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