Q My wife and I have been legal permanent residents of the United States since 2006. We are both senior citizens.
We went to India on May 21, 2008 for medical treatment. We could not file reentry permit before leaving the United States. We could not also return to the States within six months of our departure. A letter was written by me before our departure from India to USCIS, Texas Service Centre explaining that since my wife was still under medical treatment we could not return within six months. We both returned to the United States on May 10, 2009.

When can we apply for U.S. citizenship? Is our citizenship application affected by our stay outside the United States for more than six months? If so how, and what can we do?

Adimoolam Iyer

A Among all the requirements for naturalization, the most complex is often the residency requirement. As a general rule, an applicant must show that he/she has been a permanent resident of the United States for at least five years and must also meet certain requirements for the amount of time actually spent in the United States.

One of them is that during the five years immediately preceding the filing of the application, the person must have “resided” in the United States i.e. 6 months of each year should have been physically spent in the United States.

It appears that you were absent from the country for almost 11 months and 3 weeks. This absence must be dealt with carefully. The USCIS will presume that because this period exceeded 6 months, your continuous residence was broken. You can overcome this presumption by showing that your intent was to come back before the 6-month mark (if you had booked your tickets with a return date before you accumulated 6 months), but were unable to do so because of circumstances beyond your control.

You can also include other evidence that you did not abandon your U.S. residence by providing information about your continuing employment here (if this applies to you), family ties in the United States, maintaining a home, including making mortgage/rent payments, car payments, etc.

If you are unable to establish that you continued to maintain your residence in the United States, your application can be denied. If you believe that you will have problems in overcoming the presumption that you abandoned your residence, then you should apply for your naturalization after 4 years and 1 day, that is, on or after 5/11/2013.

Immigration and business attorney Indu Liladhar-Hathi has an office in San Jose. (408) 453-5335. 

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