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I want to apply for citizenship, and my case is as follows: I became a lawful permanent resident of the US on 07-31-2014, but l left the country for more than a year (from that date to 11-13-2015 the date I returned to the US). Then, on May 19, 2018, I left the country and stayed abroad for 3 months. And, finally, I visited my country (Iraq) on May 13, 2019 and stayed for 3 months. In nutshell my trips are:

So, my questions are:
1. Am I eligible to apply for citizenship?
2. When to apply, exactly?

Notes:
1. I paid taxes for all years after becoming a permanent resident.
2. All my trips were to my country of birth: Iraq.

Thanks in advance.

put on hold as off-topic by Nij, Trish, Shazamo Morebucks, Tim Lymington, A. K. Aug 20 at 14:48

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  • This would be a better question for Expatriates. – phoog Aug 5 at 14:37
  • Did you apply for a re-entry permit, a preservation of permanent residence, or a returning resident visa in conjunction with your 2014-2015 trip? – Michael Seifert Aug 5 at 18:22
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Short Answer

  1. Am I eligible to apply for citizenship?

No.

  1. When to apply, exactly?

Not sooner than 8-16-2019, but possibly later or earlier based upon details not discussed in the question.

Long Answer

In order to apply for citizenship (in your own right as opposed, for example, to becoming a naturalized citizen because you are a minor child of someone who is naturalized as a citizen) , you need to have a green card for more than 5 years. If you are married to a US Citizen, you need to have a green card for more than 3 years and you should be married to your spouse for more than 3 years.

You must also be eighteen years of age or older when you apply for citizenship.

The relevant additional questions are (see also here for a presentation in a narrative rather than question and answer format):

In the last 5 years, have you been in the United States for at least half the time (30 months)?

The answer must be "yes".

Have you ever been outside of the U.S. for more than one year since becoming a green card holder?

In order to apply for citizenship you need to wait 4 years from your latest trip date of a year or more.

Are you a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, an employee of a U.S. research institution, an employee of a U.S. firm engaged in foreign trade, or a religious worker?

Exceptions to the rules above can apply in these cases.

More detail is as follows:

Continuous and Physical Presence

Demonstrating “continuous presence”

You must have continuously lived in the United States as a green card holder for at least five years (or at least three years if you’re married to a U.S. citizen). “Continuously” means you did not take any trips outside of the United States that each lasted six months or longer during the 3–5 years you’re required to have a green card (plus the extra period while USCIS processes your U.S. citizenship application). In other words, you’re allowed to leave the United States — just make sure to return within six months every time.

IMPORTANT: If you leave the United States for more than six months as a green card holder, USCIS will presume that you abandoned your permanent residence in the United States, and they’ll deny your U.S. citizenship application.

There are ways to overcome that presumption even if you do take an extended trip abroad. The chance of success, however, depends on a few factors:

How long you stayed outside the United States

How compelling your reason was for not coming back sooner

The discretion of the USCIS officer evaluating your application (officers can still deny your application based on other reasons, including if you took frequent trips abroad)

Those applying for naturalization based on a certain period or type of military service do not need to meet this “continuous presence” requirement. See this eligibility chart to learn when certain military service members can apply for naturalization.

You may submit your naturalization application as early as 90 days before you actually finish waiting the required three or five years.

IF YOU STAYED ABROAD FOR 181 TO 364 DAYS

To avoid being denied citizenship, you’ll need to convince the USCIS officer evaluating your application that you didn’t intend to abandon your permanent residence in the United States during the time you were abroad (for more than six months but less than one year).

To accomplish this, you’ll need to provide evidence that you maintained strong ties to the United States. This evidence could show, for example, that you:

Kept your job in the United States and didn’t seek employment while abroad

Have immediate family members who remained in the United States

Kept your home in the United States

Enrolled your children in a U.S. school

IF YOU STAYED ABROAD FOR 365 DAYS OR MORE

If you stayed abroad for one year or longer, USCIS will automatically assume you abandoned your permanent residence in the United States. They will deny your U.S. citizenship application, and you’ll have to wait before you can reapply:

If you had to wait five years to apply for citizenship, you’ll need to wait at least four years and one day upon returning from your trip abroad to reapply. If you had to wait three years to apply for citizenship (as the spouse of a U.S. citizen), you’ll need to wait at least two years and one day upon returning from your trip abroad to reapply.

HOW TO AVOID BREAKING CONTINUOUS PRESENCE

To avoid the presumption that you abandoned your permanent resident status, it’s important to take certain precautions prior to leaving the United States.

Here are your options:

  1. Apply for a “re-entry permit.” If you anticipate needing to stay abroad for at least one year, it’s essential to apply for a “re-entry permit” (using Form I-131, officially called the “Application for Travel Document”) before you leave the United States.

IMPORTANT: Form I-131 is used to apply for both a re-entry permit and a typical travel permit. But these two permits — though both intended to allow the traveler to re-enter the United States upon returning from a trip abroad — are not the same: a re-entry permit is issued to current green card holders, whereas a travel permit is issued to green card applicants.

You’ll need to provide biometrics while you’re in the United States, but you can request to pick up your re-entry permit from the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you plan to visit (or ask for expedited processing if your trip is due to an emergency). The re-entry permit is valid for two years and cannot be extended, so you must return before the two years has concluded. Otherwise, you most likely won’t be allowed to re-enter the United States.

  1. Apply for “preservation” of your permanent residence. You’ll be allowed to keep your permanent resident status if you must stay abroad for one year or longer because of your work, but it must be a specific type of work approved by the U.S. government. (USCIS lists the types of employment that qualify.) To apply for “preservation” of your permanent residence, you’ll need to submit Form N-470 (officially called the “Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes”) to USCIS — in addition to applying for a re-entry permit (see above).

  2. Apply for a “returning resident visa.” If you didn’t anticipate needing to stay abroad for one year or longer because of unforeseen circumstances, such as a medical emergency, and therefore did not apply for a re-entry permit before leaving the United States, then it’s essential to apply for a “returning resident visa.” You’ll need to contact your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (at least three months before you plan to travel back to the United States) and follow their specific instructions for applying. The process usually involves completing Form DS-117 (officially called the “Application to Determine Returning Resident Status”) and an interview with a consular officer, who will determine whether you should receive a returning resident visa based on evidence you provide.

Demonstrating “physical presence”

To apply for U.S. citizenship, you must have physically lived in the United States for at least half of five years (more specifically, 913 days, or roughly 2.5 years) or at least half of three years (more specifically, 548 days, or a little over 1.5 years) if you’re married to a U.S. citizen. Although you’re allowed to take multiple trips outside the United States while you wait out the 3–5 years, it’s important to keep in mind the requirements for “continuous residence” (see above) to make sure you also satisfy the “physical presence” requirement.

IMPORTANT: When traveling abroad, USCIS will count the days that you physically leave and return to the United States as days that you were physically present in the United States. In other words, if you leave on the January 1 and return on July 1, both of those days would be counted as days that you were “physically present” in the United States.

Those applying for naturalization based on a certain period or type of military service do not need to meet the “physical presence” requirement. See this eligibility chart to learn how long certain military service members must have physically lived in the United States before applying for naturalization.

Residency

This requirement is different from the continuous and physical presence requirements above.

To satisfy the residency requirement, you must have been a resident of the state or USCIS district where you plan to apply for citizenship for at least three months immediately prior to applying for naturalization. (See our detailed guide to naturalization for exceptions to this requirement based on military service.)

“State” also includes the following:

The District of Columbia

Puerto Rico

Guam

The U.S. Virgin Islands

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

“USCIS district” refers to the geographical area served by a particular USCIS field office, determined by your ZIP code. The “current physical address” you provide on your naturalization application must be where you’ve established residency (that is, where you registered to vote, pax taxes, or obtained a state ID or driver’s license, for example), but there are exceptions. For instance, if you’re a student and depend on your parents or guardians for financial support, you may apply for naturalization from either where you attend school or your family’s home. (For other exceptions, please see the USCIS Policy Manual.)

IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER:

If you move after filing Form N-400 (officially called the “Application for Naturalization”), you must notify USCIS of your new address within 10 days of relocating to your new home so they can forward your naturalization file to the appropriate USCIS field office.

USCIS will consider your residency to be the location you specify as your “current physical address” on your Form N-400, even if you decide to apply for naturalization 90 days early.

  • Note that if the OP needs to wait "at least 4 years from your latest trip date of a year or more", the earliest they'd be able to apply would be 4 years after 11-13-2015, or 11-14-2019. (How did you arrive at the August date?) – Michael Seifert Aug 5 at 18:17
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    @MichaelSeifert Because you are allowed to file your application 90 days before the eligibility date and because it is four years and one day and not just four years. So, it is really four years minus 89 days. I calculated that in my head and it is conceivable that I am off by plus or minus a day or two. – ohwilleke Aug 5 at 18:20
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    It takes something on the order of a year and a half to process a naturalization application and obtain citizenship, during which time the law could change to your detriment or new disqualifying facts could arise. So, once you have your ducks in a row and are ready, it pays to apply ASAP. – ohwilleke Aug 5 at 18:43
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    I'm not sure the 90-day early filing period applies to the 4-year-plus-one-day rule. The regulation for the 4-year-plus-one-day rule says "An applicant described in this paragraph who must satisfy a five-year statutory residence period may file an application for naturalization four years and one day following the date of the applicant's return to the United States to resume permanent residence." It specifically says "may file an application" after 4 years and one day, not that the person satisfies the continuous residence requirement after 4 years and one day. – user102008 Aug 12 at 22:02

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