Q: I got my green card in 1994. From June 1999 to March 2000 I was away in India. Then I made another trip in July 2002 for six weeks. Will I qualify for naturalization to the U.S.? How much can I travel after I apply for naturalization? How does the recent Indian law on dual citizenship affect me?

A: This will depend on a number of factors, including whether or not you have filed U.S. tax returns, maintained a home in the U.S., etc. Generally, an absence of more than six months but less than one year establishes the presumption of not satisfying the continuity of residence, which can be rebutted.

After you file for naturalization, you need to ensure that you continue to maintain your residency in the U.S.

The recent Indian law on dual citizenship will allow dual citizenship for citizens of specific countries, including the U.S., who are persons of Indian origin (PIOs) and vest them with certain benefits previously accruing only to Indian citizens. For example, although PIOs are allowed to own certain real property, there are apparently some restrictions on owning agricultural property. Therefore, as a dual citizen, this restriction may not apply to you. I understand though, that dual citizens are not allowed to vote in India, run for public office, or take defense jobs.

Q: I’m a green card holder and applied for naturalization (N-400) in November 2002 from Columbus, OH. Now I have to go to India for a job transfer. Can I file a change of address to a relative’s Chicago address while I am working in India?

A: Yes, you can. However, it is important to continue to meet the residence and physical presence requirements up to the time you become a citizen. You can actually contact the toll-free number (800) 375-5283 to report your address change if you have a pending application at a service center.

Q: I came to California on a crew visa valid for five years and an I-94 for 29 days that has since expired. Meanwhile, I got married to an Indian girl who is a citizen but not by birth. Will our marriage be recognized by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services? Or will I be deported? What is my best option?

A: Crewmen entering on D-visas are subject to numerous restrictions. Generally, individuals on D-visa cannot adjust their status except if they qualify under INA section 245(i) i.e. provided a prima facie approvable immigrant petition or labor certification was filed before the Apr. 30, 2001 deadline. I strongly suggest that you consult an experienced immigration attorney.

Q: Is it possible to change from H-4 to J-1 while being in the U.S.? If so, how long does the process take in California?

A: Yes it is. Currently, it is taking about 30-45 days for California Service Center to process the applications.

Q: What is the processing time for I-751 (Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence) at the California Service Center?

A: The California Service Center is currently processing I-751 applications received in their office on Feb. 21, 2003. You can check the processing dates at www.uscis.gov.

Immigration and business attorney Indu Liladhar-Hathi has an office in San Jose. (408) 294-7999.

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