You have been patiently awaiting your opportunity to apply for Naturalization and that time has finally come! Now you have a pending N-400 Application for Naturalization and want to know if it is possible to travel during this pending stage.
First, travel is permissible during the application process for U.S. naturalization and alongside it being permissible there are no travel restrictions once you have filed your form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Why are there no restrictions? There are no restrictions because you are a green card holder and as a green card holder you are a permanent resident allowed to travel abroad even with a pending naturalization application.
Second, although you do not have any travel restrictions you do still have residence and physical presence requirements you must satisfy to maintain your legal permanent resident status within the U.S. For this reason it is important that any trip you plan to take must not be for longer than 180 days and you must remain mindful of the amount of accumulated time that you spend outside of the U.S. If you accrue more than 180 days outside of the U.S., USCIS will presume that you have disrupted the continuous residence requirement, consider your continuous presence broken, and will deny your N-400. For reference:
- If you are applying for naturalization based on 5 years as a permanent resident then you will need to show that you have at least 30 months of physical presence within the U.S. in order to have maintained your status.
- If you are applying for naturalization based on 3 years as a permanent resident as a qualified spouse of a U.S. citizen, then you must show at least 18 months of physical presence within the U.S. in order to have maintained your status.
- Additionally, in all cases, you must show that you have resided for at least 3 months immediately prior to filing form N-400 in the USCIS district or state where you claim to have residency.
Third, there are 3 major and essential naturalization appointments during the process and attendance to these appointments is paramount to the success of your N-400 application:
- Your biometrics appointment within a few weeks of filing your application;
- Your naturalization interview; and
- Your oath ceremony to officially become a citizen in the U.S.
Careful consideration of when you travel is important because should these appointments be scheduled during your time outside the U.S., it can lead to unnecessary complications. While it is possible to reschedule these appointments doing so would only likely lead to significant delay in your naturalization process. Moreover, ignoring the appointment notices will more than likely lead to a denial of your application.
Fourth and lastly, while there are no restrictions, per se, to your ability to travel outside the U.S. with a pending N-400 it would be wise to err on the side of caution and remain within the U.S. until your application has been adjudicated to ensure that you do not miss any appointments, do not need to reschedule any appointments because of your absence, and prevent avoidable delays.
Please always consider seeking advice with an experienced immigration attorney when making travel decisions during any portion of the Green Card or Naturalization application process.
By: Juanita Deaver
Juanita Deaver is a Staff Attorney in the I-140 and AOS Department, where she assists clients in the middle and later stages of the green card process.
Juanita earned her J.D. from South Texas College of Law Houston in May 2021. As a law-student, Juanita interned at a non-profit organization where she discovered her passion for immigration while working on family-based cases helping file I-130 petitions and I-485 adjustments of status. During her time at South Texas, she further pursued her interest in the field of immigration law through enrollment in the school’s Immigration Clinics where she worked on TPS, T visas, and DACA cases. Her experience working with families and clients in emergency situations has provided Juanita the tools and experience to provide clear and concise explanations to the seemingly daunting immigration process.
Juanita joined Reddy & Neumann as a law clerk in December 2019. While clerking, she gained valuable experience by working closely under attorneys from each of the firm’s departments on drafting successful requests for evidence, appeals, motions to re-open, and through legal research on immigration matters. Juanita understands that every case is unique and hopes to provide each client with a better understanding of the ever-changing immigration process.