One of our Naturalization clients from Huntington Beach was approved earlier this week. He had been a permanent resident for over eight years, but just recently decided to naturalize. He met all of the requirements for naturalization, but there was an issue with establishing physical presence in the United States. For the last four years his employer has required him to travel abroad extensively. Over the last year, he typically spent 30-40 days in Central America, then returned to the US for two weeks before traveling again.
One of the requirements for naturalization under INA 316(a) is that the applicant prove that during the five years immediately preceding the filing of the N-400 the applicant has been physically present in the United States at least half the time. Although physical presence and continuous residency are interrelated concepts, they are distinct requirements for naturalization.
In our case, the client wanted to naturalize soon because his frequent travels would eventually make him ineligible to naturalize. In 2008, he did not travel abroad much at all, so he accumulated substantial time in the US. However, in 2012 and 2013, he was spending only one quarter of his time in the United States. When we filed the naturalization case in June, we calculated that he had spent just over 800 days outside the United States. There were 1,826 days in the last five years; therefore, in order to be eligible to naturalize, we had to prove that he spent no more than 913 days abroad.
The naturalization interview was scheduled for September, but our client could not attend, so we rescheduled. The week before the naturalization interview, we recalculated his time outside the United States (because he had traveled abroad since we filed the N-400 with USCIS). After checking and rechecking every passport stamp, flight itinerary and other documents, we concluded that he had spent exactly 913 days outside the United States – half of the last five years.
At the interview, the USCIS officer (who I had worked with on many other cases) looked over the travel records and we answered questions about recent travel. I discussed and explained section 316(a) with the officer and he agreed that my client was just barely eligible to naturalize. At the end of the interview, the case was approved, and my client should receive the oath ceremony notice early next month.
My client was very pleased with the outcome. He looks forward to taking his citizenship oath and possibly filing visa petitions for some family members still living abroad. If you are considering the naturalization process, contact The Nunez Firm to schedule a consultation. Managing attorney Jay Nunez will meet with you and discuss the facts and law involved in your case so you can be better informed on your options.