Travel Planning When Naturalization is in Your Future

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If you travel frequently and plan to apply for U.S. citizenship in the future, you may need to starting planning far in advance.  In order to naturalize, lawful permanent residents must meet “continuous residence” and “physical presence” requirements.  Absences from the United States of six months or more may disrupt the continuous residence requirement, and even absences of less than six months can be problematic if too frequent.  Applicants must be physically present in the U.S. for an aggregate of at least thirty months within the five year period immediately preceding the application.  This means that if you plan to apply for citizenship in five years, at least half of that time must be spent physically in the U.S.  Additionally, if you move to another state in the U.S. prior to applying for citizenship, you may have to wait until you have been in your new location for three months before you will be eligible to naturalize. 

There are limited exceptions, such as for persons engaging in qualifying employment abroad.  Additionally, there are preventative measures that can be taken, such as applying to preserve residence for naturalization purposes.  If you plan to travel for an extended period of time, an immigration attorney can help you determine what steps to take to preserve your eligibility for citizenship.