If you’ve decided to apply for naturalization to become a US citizen, you may wonder if you can travel during the naturalization process. Traveling while your US naturalization application is pending can be complicated, as certain factors must be considered to ensure you don’t jeopardize your application.
What is Naturalization?
Naturalization is when a foreign-born individual becomes a US citizen after meeting specific eligibility requirements, including residency, good moral character, and passing an English and civics test. The naturalization application, or “Form N-400”, is submitted to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which reviews and processes the application. The naturalization process can take several months or even years, depending on various factors such as the USCIS workload, background checks, and the case’s complexity.
Continuous Residency and Naturalization
“Continuous residency” refers to the requirement that you must have lived in the United States for a certain period without prolonged absences to qualify for naturalization. Applicants must reside continuously in the US for five years or longer to apply for naturalization (three years if married to a US citizen). USCIS may consider any lengthy absence from the United States as a break in continuous residency. Therefore, it’s vital to be cautious and plan your travel accordingly.
Exceptions to the Continous Residency Requirements
There are certain exceptions to the travel restrictions during the naturalization process. For example, if you need to travel internationally for work, education, or a medical emergency, USCIS may find you eligible for an exception to the continuous residency requirement.
It’s important to note that even if you have a valid reason for traveling during the naturalization process and obtain an exception from USCIS, keeping your overall travel history within the limits of continuous residency is still beneficial to your case. USCIS will review your entire travel history during the naturalization process, and any significant absences may still raise questions about your eligibility for naturalization.
Risks of Traveling During Naturalization Process
USCIS generally advises against traveling internationally while your citizenship application is pending. While USCIS may make exceptions to their travel restrictions if they decide you’re eligible, it’s crucial to understand the risks associated with traveling during the naturalization process.
Requests for Evidence
If you have any lengthy absences from the United States, even with valid reasons, it may delay the processing of your naturalization application. USCIS may require additional documentation or evidence you were where you said you were to verify your eligibility, which may prolong the processing time of your case. Additionally, USCIS may schedule an interview or request further information upon your return to the United States, which could further extend the time the process of obtaining citizenship takes.
Increased Risk of Denial
Another risk of traveling during the naturalization process is the potential for a denial of your application. If USCIS determines that your absences from the United States have interrupted your continuous residency, your naturalization application may be denied. You may need to reapply and restart the naturalization process from the beginning, which can be time-consuming and costly.
Tips for Traveling During Naturalization
If you must travel internationally during the naturalization process, taking certain precautions can help minimize the risks and ensure that you maintain your eligibility for naturalization. It’s best to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to understand how traveling during your naturalization is pending could affect your case.
Obtain an Exception
If you have a valid reason for traveling, such as work, education, or a medical emergency, obtain thorough documentation to support your claim for an exception to the continuous residency requirement. This may include employment letters, enrollment letters from educational institutions, or medical records, depending on the reason for your travel. Documentation is vital to being eligible for an exception to the residency requirement.
Keep Trips Short
Try to keep your international trips short and within the limits of what USCIS considers reasonable for maintaining continuous residency. Avoid any absences longer than six months, as these may raise questions about your eligibility for naturalization. Remember that USCIS looks at your overall travel history, so do your best to limit your time outside the United States to avoid potential issues.
Maintain Travel Records
Make sure to keep accurate records of your international travel, including dates, destinations, receipts for flights and lodging, and the purpose of your trip. This information may be required to provide evidence of your travel history to USCIS during the naturalization process.
Consult an Immigration Lawyer
If you have any concerns or questions about traveling during the naturalization process, it’s best to seek legal advice from a qualified immigration attorney before making any plans. They can provide personalized guidance based on your specific situation and help you navigate the complexities of the naturalization process.
Call the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon, PLLC Today
There are severe potential consequences of traveling during the naturalization process, including delays in processing your application, possible denial of your application, and even the possibility of deportation if your permanent resident status is revoked.
It’s crucial to consider your travel plans carefully and seek legal advice if you have any concerns. By being proactive and taking precautions, you can ensure that your naturalization application remains on track and increase your chances of a successful outcome. The Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon, PLLC, is here to help answer your questions about naturalization with a free consultation. Call us at 281-606-5362 to schedule a meeting with us today.