How to Work Abroad, Not Lose Your Permanent Residency and Still Become a U.S. Citizen
Avoid AbandonmentThe process of losing residency is called "abandonment or relinquishment". The abandonment process is typically involuntary and can occur by Customs & Border Protection office determining a permanent resident has abandoned their residency when they inspect the resident in line at the airport or other port of entry. It can also occur by Customs and Border Protection or by Citizenship and Immigration Services issuing a Notice to Appear in front of an Immigration Judge for a removal/deportation hearing to determine abandonment.
Comply With 2 Requirements to Avoid Losing Permanent Residency: (1) Objective Intention & (2) No Absence Longer Than 1 YearTo avoid a finding of abandonment of your permanent residency status you must show two elements: (1) Show how your objective intention to return to U.S.
Abandonment of residency is measured from the moment the person first establishes residence outside the U.S. This means, it does not necessarily matter how short a time the person leaves the U.S. on a trip if the true intention is to move abroad. In one case, a person who expressed to the U.S. government that they did not intend to leave the U.S., but at the same time resided in Rome for 3 years, was found to have a principal dwelling place in Rome rather than the U.S. You must show your objective intention to return to the U.S. For this reason it is important to keep and store documents to support your intent to have your residence in the U.S.
Examples of Evidence to Show Objective Intention to ReturnExamples of such items are:
church membership records
insurance (health, life, auto, renter's, homeowner's)
filing taxes as a resident
maintaining a U.S. driver's license
No Absence Longer Than 1 YearThe regulations require automatic invalidation of your residency for trips over 1 year. Even if the person is able to return on numerous trips, the government may still find automatic invalidation occurred. One example of an exception is found at INA ? 316 where a resident is employed or under contract abroad with the government of the United States.
5 Additional Requirements to Apply for CitizenshipIn addition to maintaining your permanent residency, if you are interested in becoming a U.S. citizen in the future, you do not want to create a disruption of your residency for naturalization purposes. These 5 requirements are in addition to the 2 listed above: (1) State residence requirement, (2) Physically present 1/2 the last five years, (3)Reside continuously in the U.S. from the date of filing the application to the date of swearing in (4) Avoid trips over 6 months (5) No absence of longer than one year (unless given an exception).
State Residence RequirementYou must live 3 months in the state where the application is filed. See INA ? 316(a)(1).
Physically Present 1/2 the Last Five YearsYou must be on U.S. soil or a U.S. territory at least 2 1/2 years out of the 5 years before the application is filed. See INA ? 316(a). This may be difficult to meet if the resident is working abroad.
3) Reside Continuously in the U.S. from the Date of Filing the Application to the Date of SwearingDo not file the application and then move your residence outside the U.S. before the swearing-in ceremony. After filing the naturalization application, the resident must be in the U.S. to provide fingerprints and a photograph through a biometrics appointment with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The biometrics appointment and background checks will be completed before the naturalization interview.
Avoid Trips Over 6 MonthsWhen a resident takes trips outside the U.S. lasting between 6 months and 1 year, at the naturalization interview, the resident has the burden of overcoming the presumption of the loss of residence. See INA ? 316(b). Factors which help establish continuity of residence are: (1) not terminating employment in the U.S., (2) presence of immediate family in the U.S., (3) keeping full access to your U.S. home (don't rent out your house), (4) not obtaining employment abroad. Since trips between 6 months and 1 year require a lot more documentation for the naturalization application, I typically advise avoiding any trip over 6 months.
No Absence of Longer than One Year (Unless Given an Exception)An absence of one year or more automatically disrupts residency for naturalization purposes, unless an exception applies. See 8 C.F.R. ? 316.5(c)(1)(ii).
Working for a U.S. Employer AbroadOne of the exceptions to the disruption of residency for naturalization is when a resident works for a U.S. employer abroad. If you already have more than 1 year of physical presence after receiving your residency status, and you want to work abroad for a U.S. company you may be allowed to file a Form N-470 to prevent your disruption of residency. You must show the U.S. company is engaged in the development of foreign trade and commerce, See INA ? 316(b) -- (c).
Proving the Employer is a Private U.S. EmployerIn order to qualify for the exception as an employee of a private U.S. employer, you will need to show either:
(a) Your employer is a subsidiary of a U.S. company, where more than 50% of stock is owned by the U.S. company, or,
(b) Your employer is a publicly held corporation that is incorporated in the U.S. and trades stock exclusively on U.S. exchanges, or,
(c) Your employer does not trade exclusively on the U.S. stock market, but 51% of ownership is U.S.
Working for a Private Non-U.S. EmployerMoving abroad to work for a private non-U.S. employer will require the resident to follow all of the abandonment and preserving naturalization rules outlined above and will not be able to file the Form I-470.