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May I Go? Traveling While Naturalizing

On Behalf of | Mar 14, 2021 | Firm News

Many people ask whether they may travel internationally once they have filed their applications for naturalization. The answer is that, generally, yes, a lawful permanent resident may travel outside the United States while their naturalization application is pending.

However, there are very clear limitations.  First, if a lawful permanent resident is absent from the US for more than 180 days in a single trip at any time, it can restart the clock that runs toward eligibility for naturalization.  This applies whether a person has already or not yet applied for naturalization.  A person also has to spend more than half of the preceding five years in the United States to qualify for naturalization.

Second, absences of more than 365 days from the US trigger a presumption that a permanent resident has abandoned his or her status.  That person can be placed into removal proceedings upon return to the US.  Absences of more than 365 days will restart the naturalization eligibility clock.

If an applicant is traveling internationally or will be abroad on the date of the naturalization interview, they can request USCIS reschedule the interview for a date after their return to the US.  This request is without prejudice and does not cause an applicant to lose one of the two opportunities to pass the test if USCIS receives the letter before the original interview date.

A permanent resident should also remember that their green card must be valid to reenter the US after international travel.  If a person applied for naturalization more than six months before their green card expired, they can contact USCIS via phone and request an Infopass appointment.  At the Infopass appointment, an officer can stamp their valid passport with proof of their permanent resident status, known as an I-551 stamp.  In these specific circumstances, it is not necessary to apply to renew a green card through the I-90 form.

Finally, a person can travel abroad after an interview while awaiting a swearing ceremony.   However, USCIS may pull a person out of a ceremony if a background check issue arises because of the travel.    If you travel during this period, you have to bring proof of your travel to the ceremony and declare it on the oath preparation form.  Failure to do so could cause USCIS seek to revoke a person’s naturalization .     The safer plan is to stop traveling once the government schedules the interview until you become a sworn citizen.    You avoid triggering background check loops, or missing your ceremony.   Rescheduling of a missing ceremony may delay a person’s naturalization for months becaues all the necessary background checks may start to expire in the interim.    It is best to pause, get sworn, secure a new passport, and then wander abroad as long as you want.

If you are interested in naturalization, please contact Wilson Law Group for a free consultation!  We can evaluate your case and determine if you are eligible, as well as answer any questions you may have about the process.