I have been a Green Card holder since 1975. I would like to apply for US citizenship but I was outside the US from 1992 through 1997, and entered into US only 4 times or so during these 5 yrs. Clearly, I was away from the US for more than 6 months per trip. But from 1997 until today, I was never away from the US for more than one week per trip. Can I apply for the citizenship without any problem, or will I be in trouble if I do?
There are two issues - one is a requirement for citicenship called "continuous residence." If you have been outside of the US for more than 365 days, then your continuous residence is broken and you must start counting 4 years and one day before you accrue enough residence again to file for citizenship. So, that should not be a problem since it has been more than 4 years since your last extensive trips. The second and more important issue is whether you abandoned legal residence, which can happen if USCIS does not think you made the US your primary residence. There are a number of factors which can indicate abandonment, such as amount of time spent outside of the US. You should have your history as legal permanent resident and the time you spent outside of the US thoroughly evaluated before you begin the naturalization process to determine if abandonment occurred.
The previously posted response to your question contains important information. Addtionally, note that your re-entries into the U.S. as a Lawful Permanent Resident constitute may constitute official recognition of your continued LPR status.
It will be important for you to get a careful analysis by an immigration attorney of your absences, re-entries and related matters in order to determine naturalization eligibility.
[Note: Consistent with Avvo policy, this communication is intended as general information and not as specific legal advice, and this communication does not create an attorney-client relationship.]
David N. Soloway
Frazier, Soloway & Poorak, PC
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