I have a green card, but have been living outside of the U.S. for years. Can I use my green card to come back into the U.S.?
Reentering the U.S. after a long trip
There is not one magic list that exists where we can check whether a green card is valid. Instead, when you apply for a benefit, such as naturalization, or you attempt to enter the U.S. from abroad, the government may determine that you abandoned your permanent resident status and will initiate a process to relinquish your green card. United States CBP has the authority to decide at the border whether a person has abandoned their residency and may not allow that person to enter.
Can I travel abroad while my N-400 naturalization application is pending?
Travel outside of the U.S. is generally acceptable while a naturalization application is pending. Leaving the U.S. does not trigger abandonment of the N-400 and your application will continue processing during your travels. However, there are a few implications to consider before you book your trip:
Can I modify my oath based on religion when I become a US Citizen? I do not believe in bearing arms.
Yes, you are allowed to modify parts of your oath of allegiance based on your sincere, meaningful, and deeply held religious principles against bearing arms or serving in non-combatant military services. Modifying the naturalization oath is a serious decision allowed in some situations. Make sure you fully understand, or talk with an attorney about the oath and your reasons for requesting a modification before making your final decision:
President Trump’s executive order on immigration barred citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from entering the US for at least 90 days. Yesterday, 01/29/2017, the US Department of Homeland Security released a statement that the executive order does not apply to the entry of lawful permanent residents (US green card holders).
Most immigration attorneys are still not recommending that citizens of the seven listed countries travel outside the US at this time, even in light of this recent statement. See Sound Immigration’s Post for more details.
Happy New Year and best wishes for 2017! A new year is a time for goals and resolutions, which may include applying for US citizenship, renewing a green card, or meeting with an attorney to discuss available immigration paths.
Applicants should be aware that USCIS is beginning the new year with recently updated fees and forms for almost all immigration cases.
Q: I’m a Canadian citizen married to a US citizen and I’ve never applied for adjustment of status or green card. Can I bypass the green card and apply for citizenship since I’ve been married and living in the USA for 5 years?
A: No, based on what you’ve described, you are not eligible to apply for citizenship. I think you may be confusing several regulations and procedures. A permanent resident (green card holder) is eligible to apply for citizenship after holding permanent resident (green card) status for about 3 years if she or he is married to a US citizen. However, since you do not have a green card, you would not be eligible to apply for citizenship. You’d need the green card (permanent resident status) first.
The US Supreme Court’s decision on United States v. Texas is expected very soon. There are two main initiatives in dispute in this lawsuit regarding President Obama’s executive actions on immigration:
Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), and
Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA expansion)
What is the Court considering?
The Court is considering several main issues:
- Do states have standing to bring this lawsuit?
- Do expanded DACA and DAPA violate federal law or procedures with these initiatives?
- Do DAPA and expanded DACA violate the constitution?
|Q: I’m on an F-1 OPT visa right now after completing my master’s degree. My OPT finishes in August and I’d like to stay longer. What options would I have?
A:Congratulations on completing your master’s degree, and I hope your OPT internship is going well.
Yes, this is a common situation for F-1 students. As you are likely aware, it does not sound like you would be eligible for a STEM OPT extension
, even if you have stem-based OPT since your current program is not valid for an additional 150 days. You may have a few options, though.
Q: If I apply now for US Citizenship will I be able to vote in the November 2016 election?
If you live in Seattle, the answer is most likely yes! Most recently, applications for naturalization (N-400) has been taking about 5 months to process. There is probably time to apply, have the naturalization interview and ceremony in time to register for November 2016 elections.
To get a general idea on the processing time for your area, check USCIS Processing Time, select your city’s field office, and check the date listed by N-400. Using Seattle, WA as an example, the chart shows that May 2015 applications were being processed in December 2015. The wait in December was about 7 months, but this wait has shortened recently to closer to 5 months as Seattle has recently added new Officers. Check with a local immigration attorney to get a more specific idea of processing times.
Apply right away
It is best to apply as soon as possible. Processing times are subject to change over time. Also, you may need to respond to a request for evidence from USCIS, which increases processing time.
This may be a popular time to apply for citizenship, with the contentious upcoming election. The New York Times reported today that many Latinos are seeking citizenship in order to vote against a particular candidate. Further, as the article points out, 8.8 million legal residents are eligible to naturalize right now.
Q: I applied for US citizenship by submitting the n-400, but I have 2 trips within the last 5 years that lasted 9 months. What can I do?
A: Among many other requirements, those who apply for naturalization need to show they meet continuous residence and physical presence.
Continuous Residence means the applicant has resided in the US for 5 years before applying, or resided continuously for 3 years if he or she is a qualified spouse of a US Citizen. Trips outside the US that last more than 6 months can disrupt continuous residence, as can trips longer than 1 year.
Physical Presence means the applicant was physically present in the US more than half of the time. Applicants need to show they were present in the US for thirty months or more within the last 5 years (or 18 months out of the last 3 years for qualified spouses of US Citizens.) Also, US law requires that applicants have resided for at least 3 months in state where they apply for naturalization before submitting the application.
Since you mentioned two trips that were between 6 months and 1 year, this response will focus on continuous residence, though you should also check to make sure you meet physical presence requirements. This information is meant to be general and review the most common situations. For specific advice related to your case, be sure to speak with a qualified immigration attorney.