May 12, 2008: Naturalization and Abandonment Of Residency Issues

Naturalization And Abandonment Of Residency Issues

I have been a permanent resident about six years and I just submitted my application for naturalization. I have been offered a job in Barcelona, Spain which will start in Fall 2008. Ideally, I want to work there for a few years, but I will ultimately come back to the US and stay here. 1) Can I leave the United States and work in Spain without the United States taking away my green card? (The work is about 2-3 years. While I will be back to visit my parents, the majority of my time will be in Spain) 2) Can I leave the United States while my naturalization application is pending? 3) Is there any application that I can file to work in Spain for a few years and still let me return to the US when I am done?
— Steph

Generally, lawful permanent residents who plan on leaving the United States for an extended period of time should file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, before leaving the United States. This is especially necessary if the lawful permanent resident intends on remaining outside the United States continuously for more than one year because s/he may be considered to have abandoned his or her resident status. The individual must use this form to apply for a “re-entry permit”.

A re-entry permit will allow a lawful permanent resident to travel outside the United States and later apply for admission to the United States without requiring that person to obtain a returning resident visa from the United States Embassy or consulate. The application must be filed while the individual is physically present in the United States, and it must be noted that it does not guarantee re-rentry into the USA. The Applicant will be required to go to a local Application Support Center (ASC) where his or her fingerprints will be taken. The individual should not leave the United States until after being fingerprinted. The re-entry permit may be mailed to the United States Embassy or consulate or other designated office.

As for the physical presence requirements for naturalization, just because you obtain a re-entry permit does not mean you recapture the days you spent outside the United States. You can leave the country while your application is pending, but you will have to prove that you resided continuously in the United States from the date the Application for Naturalization (N-400) was filed up to the time of admission to citizenship. Short vacations or business trips are permitted while your naturalization application is pending. These trips must be disclosed to the examining officer at the naturalization interview. If you terminate your employment in the United States, obtain employment in Spain, and do not retain full access to a home in the United States, your naturalization application may be denied and your permanent residence status may be deemed abandoned. Before you accept the offer of employment in Spain, you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney who will thoroughly explore the issues of naturalization and abandonment as they specifically relate to your situation.

Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys