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How long is too long? Green Card abandonment and continuous residence for naturalization.

Congratulation! You have received your green card! Your new U.S. Permanent Resident status allows you to live and work in the United States, and in a few years, you will be eligible to become a U.S. citizen.

While in Permanent Resident status, family or work-related matters might require you to spend some time outside the United States. Before making any travel plans, it is crucial to know and understand the continuous residency requirements and the rules regarding the abandonment of residency, as they can affect your status and your eligibility for future citizenship.

How does spending time outside the U.S. can affect my Lawful Permanent Resident status?

Green card holders can travel outside the United States without losing their status as long as their travel is "temporary" in nature. U.S. immigration law assumes that a person admitted to the United States as an immigrant will live in the United States permanently. Thus, when a green card holder travels outside of the United States for an extended period, they may lose their resident status. Even when a person lives and works abroad but visits the U.S. every year, residency may be deemed abandoned.

One-year presumption

Under U.S. immigration law, a permanent resident who has remained outside the United States for longer than one year is presumed to have abandoned their residency. As a result, their green card could be revoked.

Re-entry permit

To avoid revocation due to abandonment, a green card holder can file for a Re-entry Permit before departing the U.S. A re-entry permit allows a green card holder to spend up to 2 years outside the United States. To file for a Re-entry Permit, one must be physically present in the U.S. It is advised to apply no less than 60 days before departure.

Will traveling abroad affect my eligibility for naturalization?

Another matter to consider when planning an extended stay abroad is the continuous residence requirement for naturalization. To become a U.S. citizen, one must reside in the U.S. as a Lawful Permanent Resident for five years (or three years in some cases) before applying for naturalization. "Residency" is the applicant's domicile or principal place of dawdling and is defined as the applicant's actual location, regardless of intent.

When looking at the residency requirement, USCIS will consider the entire period from the grant of LPR status up to the decision on naturalization application and citizenship.

The 180 days (6 months) rule

An absence of more than six months (180 days) but less than one year (365 days) is presumed to break the continuity of residence. USCIS officer may also review whether an applicant for naturalization with multiple absences of less than six months will be able to satisfy the continuous residence requirement. The review may include absences before and after the filing and up to the decision date.

An applicant may overcome the presumption of a break in the continuous residence by providing evidence such as:

  • Proof that the applicant did not terminate their employment in the United States or obtained employment while abroad;

  • Evidence showing that the applicant's immediate family members remained in the United States; and

  • Documents showing that the applicant retained full access to a lease or continued to own a home in the United States.

An applicant who USCIS determines to have broken the continuity of residence must establish a new period (of five years) of continuous residence to become eligible for naturalization.

Absence of one year or more

If an applicant for naturalization spent more than one year out of the United States, this would automatically break continuity. USCIS must deny a naturalization application, and the applicant will have to wait at least four years and one day after returning to the U.S. before they can apply.

For case-specific questions, please contact our office at

*This article has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current, and is subject to change without notice. Readers should contact their attorney to obtain advice concerning any particular legal matter.

© Copyright 2020 by Revital Shavit Immigration law


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