Maintain Lawful Permanent Resident Status and Naturalization

How to Maintain Law Permanent Resident Status in the U.S.

As its name indicated, when an alien obtains his/her lawful permanent resident(LPR) status, s/he must continue to maintain the intention to remain a LPR in the U.S. and physically stay most of the time in the U.S. Temporary trips abroad may not be treated as giving up the LPR status. However, if a LPR is absent abroad for more than one year, without taking some proper action to maintain his LPR, s/he may be deemed to have abandoned the LPR status. If s/he comes back with I-551 card (commonly called green card) after 1 year abroad, the INS inspection officer may reject his/her admission.

Reentry Permit. Reentry permit is a travel document valid for up to two years from the date of the alien’s departure from the U.S. Since the key issue in deciding the abandonment of LPR status is whether the LPR continues to have the intention of keep his LPR status in the U.S., Obtaining a reentry permit before going abroad is good protection measure. By applying the permit, the alien indicates that he still intends to maintain his/her LPR status. The issuance of the permit certifies that INS has accepted the alien’s visit abroad as temporary, i.e. s/he is still maintaining the LPR status despite the lengthy absence (up to 2 years). Although having the reentry permit is a strong indication of the alien’s intention of maintaining the LPR status, this may not be enough. Upon entering the U.S. after a long absence abroad, the INS inspection officer will look at, in addition to the reentry permit, other objective factors such as length of absence, purpose of trip abroad, etc. that indicate the alien’s intent.

Special Immigrant Visa. If a LPR is absent from the U.S. for more than one year without obtaining the reentry permit, s/he may not be eligible to enter the U.S. with the I-551 (green card) only. In this situation, the LPR must apply for the Special Immigrant Visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. With this special visa, s/he will be readmitted to the U.S. as LPR.


Eligibility for naturalization. In order to be eligible for naturalization, a person must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a lawful permanent resident (LPR). If the person has honorably served in time of war or declared hostilities, LPR status is not required.
  • Have continuously resided in the U.S. for five years preceding filing for naturalization (three years for the spouses of U.S. citizen). (The continuous presence is not the same as physical presence below.)
  • Have resided for at least three month immediately preceding the application in the state where the petition is filed.
  • Have been physically present in the U.S. for an aggregate total of at least one-half the period of required continuous residence (two and one-half years for most aliens; one and one-half years for spouses of U.S. citizens).
  • Have the ability to read, write and speak ordinary English.
  • Have knowledge and understanding of basic U.S. history and government.
  • Possess good moral character.
  • Be at the age of 18 at the time of filing for naturalization.

How to Maintain Continuity of Residence in the U.S.

For some LPRs who have to travel abroad frequently or are assigned to work for an overseas organization, they may find it difficult to meet the requirement of continuous residence in the U.S. Generally, an absence from the U.S. for less than six months will not interrupt the continuous residence; absence from the U.S. for more than six months but less than one year is presumed a break of the continuous residence, but this presumption can be rebutted. If an LPR is absent from the U.S. for more than one year, s/he absolutely breaks continuous residence, unless s/he takes the measures to preserve the continuity of residence.

To prevent the interruption of or to preserve the continuous residence in the U.S., the LPR should:

  • Come back to the U.S. once every six months;
  • Come back to the U.S. at least once a year, if there is reasonable explanation of the absence; or

File N-470 (Application to Preserve Continuity of Residence for Naturalization Purposes), with supporting documentation.