Travel Abroad for Permanent Residents II

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Impact on Naturalization

Notably, extended absences from the U.S. could also impact an LPR’s eligibility for naturalization. To be eligible for naturalization, an LPR must generally have a period of continuous “residence” in the U.S. as an LPR for at least 5 years before applying (3 years if married to and living with a U.S. citizen or if obtained LPR as a battered child/spouse), and have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of that time. The continuous residence requirement differs from the physical presence requirement, so that an LPR could travel abroad and still maintain “residence” for the required time. However, lengthy absences from the U.S. can disrupt the continuity of residence, and thus, disrupt eligibility for naturalization.

An absence of 6 months or more, but less than 1 year, may disrupt continuous residence, raising a rebuttable presumption of interruption. Thus, an applicant with an absence from the U.S. between 6 months and 1 year has to prove that he or she did not abandon his or her residency during this time. The evidence of LPR intent discussed above can help overcome this presumption and establishing continuous residence.

An absence from the U.S. of a year or more will disrupt the period of continuous residence required for naturalization.

There are a few exemptions for individuals who spent time abroad in military service; spouses and children living abroad with a spouse/parent serving abroad; certain international employees of the U.S. Government, American research institutes, public international organizations of which the U.S. is a member, or American businesses engaged in the development of foreign trade or commerce (an LPR in this situation will need to file an application to preserve residence); and certain LPR spouses of U.S. citizens working abroad for such institutions.

Trips Abroad for LPRs with Criminal Convictions

Finally, LPRs with criminal convictions or issues may be exposed to substantial risk by traveling abroad. Notably, some convictions do not make an LPR deportable if he or she remains in the U.S., but will make the same LPR inadmissible, and therefore subject to removal from the U.S., once the LPR attempts to return to the U.S. after a trip abroad. Travel abroad may also have the effect of “flagging” criminal issues which may have previously gone undetected.

The discussion above is just a general overview of issues which may arise when LPRs travel, and should not be considered legal advice. These are complex issues, and require individualized case-by-case evaluation; permanent residents should consult a qualified immigration attorney before traveling on extended trips abroad or before any trip abroad if there are criminal issues.

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