January 10, 2011: Can Permanent Resident Live Outside the USA?

Can Permanent Resident Live Outside the USA?

I am a permanent resident since 2008. I got it through my husband. He is a permanent resident. We want to get a divorce. I want to go to Mexico with my girls (5 yrs old & 3 yrs old, both US citizens). What can I do if I don’t want to lose my residence, and I want to apply later on to the US citizenship? Thank you.
— Anonymous

This question raises many legal issues. Generally, if you want to eventually file for United States citizenship, you will have to show that you meet the physical presence and continuous residence requirements for Naturalization. You must be able to prove that you were physically present in the United States for at least 30 out of the 60 months immediately preceding the filing of the Naturalization Application and through the application process.

You will also have to show that you have not had any absences outside the United States of more than 6 months in the five year period immediately before applying for Naturalization. You may be eligible to file Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes. Before filing this application, you must make sure that you are eligible for it. Also, it does not help with physical presence.

Since it appears you may be leaving for an extended period of time, you may also want to file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, specifically a re-entry permit. This form is filed before a person leaves on a long trip and helps to prove that s/he does not have the intention of abandoning their lawful permanent resident status even though they may be absent for a long time from the United States.

You should consult with an experienced divorce attorney to ensure there will not be any international custody issues regarding the children. If you were married for less than two years when your lawful permanent residency was approved, then you have a conditional resident status and must file an I-751 petition to remove the conditions. It may be wise for you to consult with an experienced immigration attorney before departing the United States.

Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys