Lawful permanent U.S. residents who work abroad for more than one year for employment purposes could preserve their residency status previously gained for citizenship reasons. For those who qualify, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will count the time spent outside the country toward the residency requirement for naturalization. Qualifying for citizenship usually requires having a permanent residence and living inside the United States for five years before applying.
If you want to take advantage of this allowance, you must apply for it with USCIS to prove you qualify. The rule requires that before going abroad, you are physically present in the U.S. as a permanent resident for one uninterrupted year or longer unless you are a religious worker. If you have questions about this process or other naturalization matters, you can call New Frontier Immigration Law for a free strategic session.
Completing USCIS Form N-470 and Next Steps
The application to preserve U.S. residence is Form N-470. You can find this form and the instructions for completing and mailing it on the USCIS website. The form has two parts. The first part asks for your employment information, and you will use a check box to select one type. This will confirm if you might be eligible and informs USCIS of anything else you must prove to qualify. Then, in the second part, you must describe your employment and how long you anticipate you will be outside the U.S.
Permanent U.S. residents who may qualify to preserve residence for naturalization purposes include those employed in specific U.S. government jobs, private sector jobs, and religious organizations. For example, form selections include American USCIS-recognized research institutions and firms or corporations engaged in foreign trade development and commerce.
You can send in your application after you leave the U.S., but you must do so before you have been abroad for one full year. You must send the application package back to the U.S., as there are no foreign filing addresses.
Filing Fees for USCIS Form N-470
At the time of this writing, the filing fee for Form N-470 is $355. You can pay it with a check or money order made to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and you must send it with the form. You can also use Form G-1450 to pay by credit card.
Special Concerns When Filing Form N-470
When you file an N-470, it does not mean you can simply leave for employment abroad without worrying about reentering the U.S. Officials can consider that you are abandoning your residency if you spend an uninterrupted period of one year or more outside the U.S. Before you leave, you can avoid this issue by filing for a reentry permit using Form I-131.
If you have been abroad for an extended period and try to reenter the U.S., a customs official can deem that period as temporary. However, this is only if you have maintained a constant and uninterrupted intention to return to the U.S. during the totality of your stay abroad. The customs official will assess the strength of your ties in the U.S. versus your associations abroad to see if the ties are strong enough to conclude you always planned to return to the U.S.
More Tips to Avoid Problems With Reentry
To show immigration officers you intend to maintain your permanent residence, you, as a lawful U.S. permanent resident, can take several steps to minimize issues upon reentering the U.S.:
- Obtain a U.S. driver’s license and ensure the address matches the one USCIS has on file for you.
- Acquire a credit card from a U.S. institution and use it periodically so that your statements will show activity.
- Obtain, maintain, and use U.S. savings and checking bank accounts.
- Maintain a U.S. address and have the U.S. Postal Service deliver all mail to this address, including USCIS documents.
- Communicate regularly with family and friends in the U.S. by email, letters, or phone, and keep all correspondence as proof.
- Be able to prove your family ties to the U.S., such as having a spouse, child, parent, or other close relatives living in the country.
Only the Primary Applicant (Person Working Abroad) in a Household Must File Form N-470
If you are married to a U.S. citizen working for certain employment purposes abroad, you do not have to meet residency and physical presence requirements for naturalization. Therefore, you do not have to fill out Form N-470. According to the form’s instructions, an N-470 applicant can extend the preserving residency benefit to their spouse and children who are members of the same household and have lived with the primary applicant while outside the U.S.
Taxes and Failure to File or Identify as a Resident
If you are a permanent resident, you must file U.S. tax returns every year, even if you are abroad and not working for a U.S.-based company. Failure to file returns can indicate abandonment, per the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Furthermore, permanent residents typically must file tax returns showing global earnings, not just U.S. income.
It is also essential that permanent residents identify themselves as U.S. residents on tax returns and not as non-residents. If you file a U.S. tax return identifying as a non-resident, your residency status may be deemed abandoned based on this “voluntary admission” of non-residency, according to the IRS. However, this does not exclude the possibility of claiming the “non-resident” deduction for employment abroad, a schedule that must be submitted with a resident tax return.
Consult With Our Immigration Lawyer Today About Form N-470
The laws and procedures for attaining permanent residence in the United States are complex. This is also the case for those governing the preservation of permanent residency for naturalization purposes. As a result, it may help to consult with our immigration lawyer if you have a significant change in circumstances, such as temporarily moving for a job. By doing so, you can consider the legal consequences of your situation.
If you have questions or concerns about the immigration process or need help filling out Form N-470 or other documents, call New Frontier Immigration Law for a free strategic session.