Q: In the US naturalization process, if one was outside US for over 1 year, does the 5 year clock starts from scratch?
We received our Green Cards on 9/16/2013. We plan to apply for US citizenship, but we were outside US between 8/1/2014 and 10/12/2016. During that time, we were in UK working in a big school. Before moving to UK, we filed for Re-entry permit, and received the travel documents. During that time, I came to US 4 times while my wife did not. Since October 12, 2016, we are in US. We both filed our tax forms and and have been actively looking for a job in the US during the time we were outside US.
1. Am I eligible to apply for US citizenship now? If not, when is the earliest I can apply?
2. Is my wife eligible to apply for US citizenship? If not, when can she apply?
3. When I was reading the online documents on US naturalization process, I am confused about the 'continuous residence' condition. Does that mean that because we were outside US over 1 year, the 5 year clock starts from scratch?
A: Barring your wife having submitted and received an approval of an Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes (Form N-470), your wife would need to wait to apply for citizenship four years and one day after returning to the United States from her trip that lasted more than 1 year. The reentry permits may excuse your and your wife's absence of more than 1 year in terms of you not being accused of having abandoned your permanent resident status, but that does not prevent a break in continuity of residence, another requirement for naturalization. You, given that you may not have had a continuous 1 year absence, may possibly qualify sooner - assuming you meet other total physical presence time requirements. Even if you do not have a single absence of 1 year or longer, absences in excess of 6 months but less than 1 year create a rebuttable presumption that you have broken continuity of residence. I would recommend that you consult with a competent immigration attorney who can discuss the particulars of your case with you. At first glance, though, you seem to be in a better position than your wife.
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