Dilemma about frequent overseas travel before naturalization


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Dear experts/friends,

I would really appreciate your feedback/advice on my spouse's dilemma.

My spouse and I received our Green Cards in January 2011 under EB category. I was the primary, and my spouse was the derivative. Both of us intend to continue to live in the US and take the path of Naturalization to become US Citizens without delay (when we become eligible).

In 2011 - We did not travel outside the USA.

In 2012 - I traveled outside the USA only once (on vacation for 4 weeks). My spouse traveled outside the USA only once (on vacation for 10 weeks).

So, after receiving the GC, my spouse has been physically present in the US for a total of about 22 months in the past 2 years (till date). But now we are faced with a peculiar, urgent situation which has put us in a dilemma.

My spouse's parents, who live in her home-country, are old, ailing (with many health problems) and cannot travel. My spouse is their only surviving child and due to her parents' health problems, she feels the filial need to visit her ailing parents to take care of them, as much as possible (and without risking/delaying her naturalization process).

I am fully supportive of my spouse's filial responsibilities as I can understand the emotional aspect of not being able to care for one's own parents. I too would like my spouse to spend as much time as possible with her ailing parents (without hopefully risking/delaying her naturalization process). I would rather that she spend as much precious time as possible now with her aged, ailing parents (before their health deteriorates for the worse), rather than rue over it (due to emotional guilt) for the rest of her life.

But both of us are also in a dilemma/worried if my spouse's future trips abroad would result in my spouse not being able to maintain Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) and also meet the requirement of Continuous Residence for Naturalization (CRN).

My spouse is currently not employed in the US and is therefore free to travel at any date of her choice.

FYI - We have purchased a house in the US and lived in the same house for over 6 years (and it remains our primary and only residence). We do not own any property or house outside the US. As a couple, we have been paying taxes (filing jointly) to IRS in the US only for almost a decade now.

Now, in order to maintain Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) and to also meet the requirement of Continuous Residence for Naturalization (CRN), is it safe/advisable for my spouse to do the following in a continuous loop for the next 3 years only:

a) Is it safe if my spouse travels to her home country for a maximum of 5 months at a time and then returns to the US for a duration of atleast 1 month? Then, she could travel overseas again for a maximum of 5 months at a time, and then return to the US for a duration of atleast 1 month...and so on.

b) This way, my spouse will return to the US well within the prescribed 6 months of her previous departure.

c) This plan could mean that my spouse would spend 1+1 = 2 months every year in the US for the next 3 years.

d) In the next 3 years, this would add up to 3 x 2 = 6 months, which when added to her current 22 months of physical residence, will add up to a total of 28 months.

e) At that point (i.e. after the next 3 years), my spouse will come back reside in the US for the next 3 months at a stretch - which would take her total to 31 months of physical residence (which would meet the requirement of being physically present in the US for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the naturalization application). Both of us intend to file for our naturalization at that time (i.e. exactly 5 years after we received our Green Cards).

Please advise if this is a safe solution. What should we do ? Is this hypothetical plan viable ? Or would it possibly result in a delay in my spouse's naturalization (due to not being able to maintain LPR or not meeting CRN) ? We do not wish to delay my spouse's naturalization for any reason.

Given the high-costs of international travel and the fact that we are a family of modest means, it is not financially viable for us if my spouse were to possibly make many more trips of shorter duration (i.e. say, once every 2 months, 4 times a year) to visit her parents overseas. So, that option is ruled out.

P.S: During the next 3 years, I definitely intend to continue working/living in the USA without any travel overseas.

Could you please advise us? Your advice is much appreciated.

Many thanks, in advance, for your reply. :)

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She will likely have to choose between fast naturalization and care for parents. If she only wants to become a USC to bring her parents her, with their poor health, she needsa to rethin the plan. If that is not the case, she should get a reentry permit and not have to worry about traveling and the faker attempt to maintain GC. Such a travel pattern will be detected and she might lose it.

In the worse case, if she loses her GC, you can refile once you naturalize and she is ready to return to the US.

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Mere timing of trips will not determine whether or not your wife can keep her LPR status. She needs to show her intent to remain a US permanent resident. Timing of trips is more relevant to timing of naturalization, but should not keep your wife from spending plenty of time with her parents. If you want to create a detailed strategy, you may want to consult with a qualified attorney.

FYI, I don't see a likelihood of losing LPR status on these specific facts.

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