Any person born outside of the United States, who has filed their Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) with the U.S. government, and who is in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen (naturalization) may find the need to travel while their N-400 is pending. While it is inherently acceptable for green card holders to travel, he or she will need to proceed with caution when doing so. 

If you are asking if you may travel while my N-400 is pending, make sure to read this post carefully.

This is because any unwarranted trips (out of the country) may be seen as immoderate, and can potentially jeopardize his or her eligibility for naturalization. Especially when the applicant leaves the country and stays away for more than one year. Furthermore, this could additionally be deemed as abandonment of permanent resident status.

Here, we will take a look at residence requirements, trip duration limitations and the crucial appointments during the naturalization process.

Basic N-400 Requirements

Continuous Residence Requirement

Lawful residents will need to provide evidence that they have resided in the U.S. for five or more years — continuously. Though permanent resident individuals who are married to U.S. citizens are eligible for applying after only three years of continuous residence. Alternatively, any applicant who is in the military may be able to petition for a waiver of the continuous residence requirement.

Physical Presence Requirement 

In addition to the continuous residence requirement, any naturalization applicant is required to have been physically present for a cumulation of 30 months during the required five years. As mentioned above, there are exceptions for any spouse of a U.S. citizen (18 months during three years) and a waiver for military individuals. 

It is important to note that applicants must meet the physical presence requirement when he or she files their N-400, and when he or she attends their naturalization interview.

Essentially, applicants must be able to prove not only that they have been physically present in the U.S. (for at least half of their time as a permanent resident), but also that their continuous residence shows they have fulfilled their intentions of integration, and that they will continue to do so for the remainder of their life here in the U.S.

Therefore, the best case for applicants to remain inside the country while their naturalization application is being processed. 

Naturalization Appointments

There are three main appointments related to the naturalization process. They are as follows:

  • Within two or three weeks: a biometrics appointment
  • Within five to twelve weeks: a naturalization interview with an immigration officer
  • Upon becoming a U.S. citizen: an oath ceremony

Since the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) schedules the biometrics appointment on behalf of the N-400 applicant, it is imperative that he or she is inside the country. This can only be done at the location indicated by the USCIS. Missing any of the above appointments can negatively affect the application process. If an appointment is missed and needs to be rescheduled, it will invariably cause further delays in the process. Worse, it could result in a denial of the naturalization application altogether.

Furthermore, once the biometrics appointment has been completed, the USCIS will then schedule the naturalization interview with a USCIS officer. Considering that the naturalization interview is mandatory to be conducted inside the U.S., it is likewise essential the applicant attends the appointment the first time it is scheduled for them. Likewise, it is important to also bring all original documents to the naturalization interview. The failure to attend the naturalization interview will most likely cause a denial of the N-400 application.

It is important to mention here that during the naturalization process, a USCIS officer evaluates the petitioner’s international travels made during the five years immediately preceding his or her application. 

Upon the approval of an applicant’s N-400, the USCIS will finally schedule the applicant to take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony. The ceremony is the finalization of the naturalization process. It goes without saying that it is truly essential to attend this naturalization oath ceremony if one desires to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Traveling Abroad After Filing an N-400

In general, traveling abroad for six months or less will technically not affect the applicant’s continuous residence requirement. Though traveling internationally and interrupting continuous residence may cause the denial of an N-400 application, especially when the trip lasts six or more months. This is known as a disruption of the continuous residence requirement.

Applicants often ask whether they can live in the U.S. and their home country until he or she is ready to apply for citizenship, based on the fact that their green card allows them to do so. As previously mentioned, traveling outside the U.S. after filing a naturalization application is permissible — as the applicant is a green card holder with no travel restrictions. As long as the trips are short, kept to a minimum and as long as no immigration-related appointments are missed.

Regarding the naturalization test, if the applicant fails a portion of the test, he or she will be allowed only two opportunities to successfully pass the English and civics requirements. As such, the applicant will be retested during a new interview (only on the failed portion) within 60 to 90 days from their initial interview date.

Upon successful U.S. naturalization, beneficiaries will therefore be eligible for a U.S. passport, ability to travel to most countries around the world, and the ability to travel outside of the country for an unlimited amount of time — without any restrictions, whatsoever.

Conclusion About Travel While My N-400 Is Pending

While it is permissible for permanent residents to travel abroad while their N-400 application is pending, it is important to exercise caution and limit trips to short durations.

Excessive or prolonged travel outside the U.S. may jeopardize an applicant's eligibility for naturalization by disrupting the continuous residence requirement.

You must remember to attend all mandatory appointments, including the biometrics appointment, naturalization interview, and oath ceremony, as failure to do so can result in delays or even denial of the N-400 application.

By carefully planning international travel and prioritizing the naturalization process, applicants can successfully navigate their journey to becoming U.S. citizens and enjoy the benefits of unrestricted travel with their newly acquired status.