US Citizenship Questionnaire "Time Outside the US"?
December 21, 2010 2:32 PM   Subscribe

US Citizenship Questionnaire "Time Outside the United States"? I don't know all the dates I left the US, what should I do?

I am applying for US citizenship. On Citizenship Form N-400, Question 7C, I need to list "all the trips of 24 hours or more that you have taken outside of the United States since becoming a lawful permanent resident." I cannot find all the dates I left the country, what should I do?

I've been a resident since 1992. I have my current passport and previous expired password with records back to 1996. I know I went to Ireland each year between 1992 and 1996 but I don't know the dates nor the exact length (none of the trips were for more than 2 weeks or so). Also, from 1996 to 2000 I don't see any INS stamps in my passport for reentry into the US and I'm pretty sure I'd gone to Ireland more that once in that time.

So what should I do? Should I append a note saying I did make trips but I don't know the dates? Can I call INS and get a list of dates that I reentered the country and do a guesstimate based on that? Should I guess the dates (which could be tantamount to lying)?

This is related to my previous question.

Thanks for your answers, and if anything here is unclear let me know!
posted by zaphod to Law & Government (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Can you get ticket records from the credit card companies and use that to get travel dates from the airlines? Are you in a frequent flyer club for an airline that might have a site to get the dates from, or a customer service number you could call to have them search their databases to find out?

There have to be other sources for that information to check into even given the length of time that has passed.
posted by immlass at 2:40 PM on December 21, 2010

Do what immlass said, and if you still can't figure it out, estimate the dates. Guess high. Append a note saying something like "I do not recall and could not find the exact dates of these trips. I checked with all of these agencies and still could not be certain. I have therefore estimated the dates."
posted by Etrigan at 2:42 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yep, just put down your best estimates, particularly if it was a long time ago. They're interested in you filling in the form honestly.
posted by jjderooy at 3:06 PM on December 21, 2010

I've been in the exact spot: do what Etrigas said and if you can provide any proof that you were not away for more than 180 days, attach it and have it handy. Letters from work, credit card expenses, Airline frequent flier records, anything. Make sure you can prove less than 180 days per exit and 50%+ time overall. Show a good faith effort in trying to document them but be as thorough as you can and don't take this lightly: you have to prove you didn't abandon residency at any point.
posted by costas at 3:06 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I helped my 75 year old uncle fill out his citizenship application last year (which was granted, btw). He had been in the U.S. since 1968, and also couldn't exactly recall each and every date he left the country since becoming a permanent resident. He did know that he went to Canada every summer in July or August, but since he didn't use a passport (until the regulations changed), he didn't know what the exact dates were. We just estimated a 2 week stay each yearly trip and submitted it as such and didn't encounter any problem. I think it's safe to just do it like that and submit a note with it stating that you aren't sure of the exact dates.
posted by Sal and Richard at 3:11 PM on December 21, 2010

I had the same problem (different country)

Ireland's customs/border control will have Extensive Files on you and all your comings and goings. Email them a request for all the dates you entered and left Ireland. Western countries typically have laws that requires agencies to disclose info on you that you request. In my case, I just sent an email, and got back a nice letter listing all departures and returns, signed and on official government letterhead, which is great if you're ever asked to show evidence - which I later had to do.

To convert to US arrival/departure dates, you do need to check that travel time / time zones / dateline issues aren't going to cross into the next or previous day. But other than that, it's good.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:21 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's actually not a huge deal. Put down your best guesses and note that these are just estimates. My father became a citizen years ago and he had made over a hundred trips to Europe on business. He noted down some of them and put a note to the effect that there were a bunch more but there was no way he was going to be able to come up with them.

There were no problems.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:08 PM on December 21, 2010

I approximated, and so did my mother. No issues.
posted by halogen at 5:15 PM on December 21, 2010

Can I call INS and get a list of dates that I reentered the country and do a guesstimate based on that?

In theory you can get the info via a written FOI enquiry to DHS, but in practice ... well, we got no useful response and went with a best-estimate list, which was accepted fine. (Unfortunately the application was three weeks too *#@$ soon, so was turned down because the required time-in-country was under the bar.)
posted by anadem at 5:49 PM on December 21, 2010

I approximated the dates on my citizenship application, since I could only vaguely remember which year it was I went to Canada while in college. Did not have a problem.
posted by Shusha at 6:43 PM on December 21, 2010

I approximated as well. Granted, I was denied, even though I've lived here since 1983, but that's because I'd been out of the country for more than half of the last five years when I applied (which was right after university in Canada).
posted by Grither at 5:52 AM on December 22, 2010

Thank you all for your replies

After reading them I did another more thorough search for my old passport from the early 1990's and I found it! I have all the dates I reentered the country and I'm going to guess the dates when I left the US and included a letter stating the following;
I estimated my departure dates for trips I took outside the US for the years xxxx to xxxx. I do not have records for the exact dates that I left the US but I do have records for when I returned. Most of these trips were for approximately 14 days and none were greater than 30 days.

During this time I would not have been outside the US for an extended period as I was either working a full-time job and attending University part-time, or attending University full-time and working part-time, or working full-time.

If needed, I can provide tax records and/or my University records to prove that I was resident in the US during this time.

Furthermore, at no point has my residency in the US ever lapsed.
Unless folk really, really think I should try and hunt down the records? Considering some of these trips were up to 28 years ago I think it might be hard to track 'em down.

posted by zaphod at 4:39 PM on December 26, 2010

Just to follow-up, my interview went well, and there were no questions about the dates of when I was outside the US. I will be Naturalized in June 2011.

I would guess that because my trips were to Western-Europe and not to "dodgy" countries that it wasn't a problem.
posted by zaphod at 8:57 AM on May 30, 2011

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