Qualifying Continuing Residence

If you are interested in keeping your green card and applying for U.S. citizenship, this article will explain why travel abroad may hinder qualifying for continuing residence.

If in fact you want to keep your permanent resident card, you may need to prove to the government that you are living here most of the year.

In order to meet this continuous residence requirement, the government will look very carefully at your time spent away from the U.S.   This applies in two very important instances.   In order  to 1) keep your green card or 2) apply for U.S. citizenship.  There are few exceptions.

An important term the government uses to track whether you meet this requirement is ‘continuity.”

Continuous U.S. residence can be broken by traveling and working in a foreign country.

An example of how this may happen is traveling frequently as a green card holder.  This time away can also add an element of uncertainty to a U.S. citizenship application.

Generally, there are two basic requirements for U.S. citizenship.  One is good moral character. The other is to live at least half of the year in the U.S. (continuity.) This time is counted very carefully on the N-400 citizenship application form.  An applicant must wait three or five years as a green card holder before applying for citizenship.

For citizenship, after the required three or five years pass, a green card holder submits forms to the government along with supporting documents. These forms are then reviewed by a government official and approved by this official. There is also an exam and an English test.

The government has a lot of leeway in approving applications.  Even if your application is denied, you can take it to another government court to appeal a denial.

Let’s look at an example of travel/work abroad that caused an official to deny an application for U.S. Citizenship.

The details of the case were as follows. The citizenship applicant spent more than half the year working abroad for a gas company “subsidiary” of Chevron.  If the employee worked for a U.S. company, this would fall under an exception to the continuous residence requirement for citizenship. The reviewer was not persuaded that the subsidiary  was in fact a U.S. company.

In October 2010 the application for citizenship was denied by the immigration officer. On appeal, the court found the subsidiary company was in fact a U.S. company because company shares were traded on the U.S. stock exchange.

Here is an example of how a government immigration official opinion may be overruled on appeal. It also shows how there are exceptions to rules that may apply in individual cases, depending on the facts of the case.

Thankfully, our system has checks and balances to offer people who want to become citizens a second chance.