The first thing to concern yourself with is that you do not abandon your lawful permanent resident status. Generally, the INS takes the position that if a person lives and works abroad, you have abandoned your residence.
Many people are under the mistaken belief that if they return to the United States every six months that they will continue to be considered lawful permanent residents. Many individuals have lost their status because they did not maintain sufficient ties to the United States to retain their status.
You should take certain steps to assure that your permanent residence status will not be lost. First, always file US tax returns as a resident. You may not actually pay a tax because of tax treaties and foreign tax credits. You may be able to arrange to keep certain benefits in the United States or have your contract indicate that you are an ex-pat and the position you are assuming is a temporary position. Even better if it indicates you will return to the United States at the end of the assignment.
If the employment is indefinite, maintain as many contacts to the US as possible. We always recommend that you apply for a Re-Entry Permit before traveling abroad. The Re-Entry Permit will preserve your lawful permanent resident status for a period of two years. An individual who has a valid re-entry permit will not be found to have abandoned his status based upon the length of time he or she was outside the United States providing you maintain a residence in the United States. Evidence of residence in addition to tax returns may be a driver’s license, library card, bank account, family remaining in the United States and property ownership.
If you will be outside of the US for more than two years, you must return to the US before the expiration of the Re-Entry Permit to make an application for a new one. You must be physically present in the U.S. when we file the application and you must be here to complete Biometrics. You can leave after filing and return for Biometrics but this may be expensive depending upon the location of your assignment,
You will need two photos, a copy of your alien card and a filing fee. (Note the photos now required by CIS are full face frontal view)
The second area of concern is the preservation of your residence for naturalization purposes. This concept is different than physical presence which is important in naturalization cases and preservation of lawful permanent resident status discussed above.
An individual must reside continuously in the United States for five years/three (if married to a USC) years in order to become a U.S. citizen. An absence from the U.S. for more than six months will break the continuity of your residence for citizenship purposes. This is so even if you are traveling with a re-entry permit. This means if you remain outside the US for an extended period of time you must wait four years and one day before you can file for Naturalization One thing you can do is return to the U.S. at least every six months (even if you have a re-entry permit).
The other thing you can do is to apply to preserve your residence for naturalization purposes. (Again, this in no way affects your physical presence. For naturalization, you must be physically present for at least one half of the required three/five years of residence)
In order to apply for extended absence benefits you must meet the following criterion:
- You must be physically present in the United States with no
absences for one year as a lawful permanent resident;
- You must be employed abroad with a US corporation or majority
owned subsidiary of a US corporation engaged in the development
of foreign trade or commerce;
- Your absence from the United States must be in furtherance of your overseas
Your request is filed on INS Form N-470 together with a detailed letter from your employer.
In the majority of cases, it is very difficult to leave for an extended period and maintain your eligibility to file for citizenship upon having your green card for five years. It may be best to focus on preserving and maintaining your permanent resident status.
Please feel free to ask us any questions as this is a very complicated area of the law and mistakes may be costly.