Applying for Citizenship if Living Abroad

Categories: Immigration Lawyer Blog San Diego

Applying to become a U.S. Citizen has various requirements that vary depending on whether someone obtained permanent residency through marriage to a U.S. Citizen or through another means (employment based, sponsorship by a family member, asylum, etc.) .

Regardless of the grounds for becoming a permanent resident in the first place, an individual must meet certain presence tests during his/her permanent residency to become a citizen. This includes residing in the U.S. continuously for 3 or 5 years, and being physically present in the U.S. for over half the time during the qualifying period as indicated in INA § 316(a).

However, there is an exemption under  INA § 316(b) for people who work abroad for: an American company (or a subsidiary), the US government, an American research institution, or a public international organization. This exemption makes a lot of sense so as to not punish someone for accepting a transfer to an overseas post.

Unfortunately, there is one large hurdle as INA § 316(b) also requires someone to be physically present and reside within United States, for an uninterrupted period of at least a year after becoming a permanent resident.  This means not one day out of the country to visit family, vacation, or business trips. Not even a quick jaunt over the border to Tijuana, Vancouver, or Niagara Falls.  For some people this might not be so hard, but for others it is nearly impossible.  Especially, when you consider the fact that few people will know over a year in advance that they will be stationed abroad so they can plan to remain in the United States.

Why become a Citizen in the first place? Here are my top 10 reasons to apply for U.S. Citizenship.