According to the US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS), applicants are not eligible for naturalization if they have abandoned their Legal Permanent Resident Status (LPR).
Abandonment is a legal term that generally is determined at the discretion of the USCIS. Abandonment means that an LPR demonstrates the intent to no longer reside in America as an LPR – after the person has departed the United States. The USCIS also provides that if a parent abandons his/her LPR status, that abandonment is imputed to a minor child in the parent’s control and custody.
An LPR is permitted to leave the US but they need to be careful. If they stay abroad for too long and depending on the circumstances, the left may result in an abandonment of LPR status.
The abandonment provision applies even if the LPR leaves the US and then is improperly permitted to return. The reason abandonment affects the naturalization process is because naturalization requires continuous residence in the US. Abandonment means the LPR didn’t continually reside in America.
Once it’s determined an LPR fails to meet its LPR status, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will issue a Notice to Appear (Form I-862) at a removal proceeding. At the removal hearing, the LPR will normally deny the naturalization application due to the abandonment.
The final determination about whether an LPR has abandoned his/her LPR status is made by an immigration judge. The applicant only loses his/her LPR status if and when the immigration judge issues a removal order – and that order becomes final.