Now that you and your family are living in the U.S. permanently, you are likely wondering how long you will have to wait before you can apply for citizenship. You know it will be years before you can be a naturalized citizen, and you’re worried you will have to return to your native country for work in the meantime. It took so long for you to receive your green card, you’re afraid to do anything that might jeopardize your U.S. residence—and you don’t want to be denied re-entry to the U.S. if you’re forced to travel for an emergency.

There are a number of reasons that green card holders may lose their chance to apply for citizenship. One of the most common mistakes visa holders make is abandoning their permanent residence in the U.S.

USCIS may assume that you have abandoned your U.S. residence if you:

  • Have been away from your U.S. residence for more than 1 year without applying for a re-entry permit or returning resident visa
  • Have been away from your U.S. residence for more than 2 years after you have been granted a re-entry permit
  • Fail to file your state and federal income tax returns while outside of the United States—or declare yourself to be a “non-immigrant” when filing tax returns
  • Move to another country

Green card holders are generally encouraged to be physically present in the U.S. for a certain amount of time before applying for citizenship. If you must travel, you may file a document with USCIS to explain any long absence before your departure.

Contact us if you would like more information about naturalization or re-entry permits. 

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