When you arrive to the US, you are given a customs form (CBP Traveler Entry Form) to fill out. One of the questions is "Country of Residence". If one temporarily lives in the US (e.g. on an F1 visa) [in a rented apartment] [and spends at least 10 months a year in the US, spending the remaining 2 months or so traveling], what should they answer? Is the US their country of residence, or is the country of residence defined to be the country of their permanent residence (which is in most cases the country of their citizenship)?

  • 1
    Isn't it a customs form?
    – mdd
    Jul 10 '19 at 19:43
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    @mdd Fixed. I didn't know the right name for it.
    – user77409
    Jul 10 '19 at 19:44
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    Since they do not qualify it as "lawful permanent resident" I always assumed it was the normal, where-do-you-live, meaning of "resident". Jul 10 '19 at 21:52
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    @AussieJoe See the section headed "employment" in Students and Employment. Jul 11 '19 at 5:46
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    @AussieJoe was it a CBP officer or a call center worker? I don't think the call center is staffed with officers. Also, citizenship country is irrelevant; an F-1 student could be a citizen of a country where he or she has never set foot. Such a person should certainly not put that country as the country of residence.
    – phoog
    Jul 11 '19 at 15:55

Residence can mean different things for different purposes. Here's what the Code of Federal Regulations has to say about the residence status of arriving persons for customs purposes:

§ 148.2 Residence status of arriving persons.

(a) General. Persons arriving from foreign countries will be divided into two classes for Customs purposes:

(1) Residents of the United States returning from abroad, and

(2) All other persons, hereinafter referred to as nonresidents.

(b) Status as returning resident. Citizens of the United States, or persons who have formerly resided in the United States, (including American citizens who are residents of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or the Virgin Islands of the United States) will be deemed residents of the United States returning from abroad within the meaning of “residents” as used in Chapter 98, Subchapter IV, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (19 U.S.C. 1202), in the absence of satisfactory evidence that they have established a home elsewhere. The residence of a minor child will be presumed to be the residence of the child's parents.

(c) ...

Since "reside" is not further defined, it must be interpreted in its normal meaning. An F-1 student who has moved to the US for school will normally "reside" near the school. If such a person leaves the US, he or she will be, at the time of returning to the US, a person who has "formerly resided in the United States" and so will be a returning resident.

In practice, your claim to be a resident or nonresident does not matter unless you are importing items in excess of the nonresident exemption.

  • "2) All other persons, hereinafter referred to as nonresidents." F1 never granted residency in the first place, so they return as a nonresident. Thats exactly what the CBP officer told me over the phone. When you fill out an F1 visa application you state that your residency is abroad and that you will return.
    – AussieJoe
    Jul 11 '19 at 16:16
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    @AussieJoe are you aware that under the Immigration and Nationality Act, an alien who enters the US without inspection is formally defined as an "immigrant"? This is true even though that person has bever been granted an immigrant visa nor any other immigration benefit by the US.
    – phoog
    Jul 11 '19 at 16:19
  • @phoog so what does that mean in regards to entering / customs? I imagine that it is only a factor for entering, but not very interesting in general whether you are an immigrant under that act, who is e.g. also a VWP member state citizen or has a specific visa.
    – JakeDot
    Jul 11 '19 at 21:25
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    @JakeDot it doesn't mean much. The point was to illustrate the inapplicability of definitions under immigration law (and, by extension, tax law) to terms used in customs law.
    – phoog
    Jul 11 '19 at 23:49
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    For those who haven't yet made it to the chat, there is a link there to the final rule concerning the change in the definition of family for the purpose of the form. In the discussion to one comment, CBP says unambiguously that "The term ‘‘resident’’ for purposes of this regulation is not the same as ‘‘lawful permanent resident’’ in immigration law."
    – phoog
    Jul 12 '19 at 3:25

The question "Country of Residence" can be understood to mean "In which country do you normally live for most of the year?"

For your situation where you live 10 months of the year in the US, your country of residence would be the US.

This is unrelated to the US term "permanent resident" for green card holders.

  • 1
    Not entirely unrelated. It's more that it's just not permanent :-)
    – phoog
    Jul 11 '19 at 3:07
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    Do you have a source for that information? These lawyers say otherwise: avvo.com/legal-answers/…
    – AussieJoe
    Jul 11 '19 at 3:12
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    @AussieJoe that's a completely different matter. TPS is temporary protected status -- a refugee-like status for those who cannot return to their country of citizenship. The current version of application form, no longer even asks for "country of residence," presumably because it was confusing, but instead asks for "countries of residence before entering the US" and then "I entered on the US on the following date, and have resided in the US since that time." This clearly contemplates that a non-LPR may "reside" in the US.
    – phoog
    Jul 11 '19 at 14:51
  • @phoog you are aware OP filed taxes with 1040-NR-EZ, U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens? That is pretty clear OP is a non resident alien, even his tax forms prove it.
    – AussieJoe
    Jul 11 '19 at 15:22
  • @AussieJoe see my comment above.
    – phoog
    Jul 11 '19 at 15:23

It would be your country of residence. An F1 visa does not establish residency. An F1 is for nonresident aliens only. More specifically, your nationality on your passport is what you should use.

According to this overview of F1 visa

What is the purpose of the F1 visa?

The intent of an F1 visa is to allow an alien - a person who is not a US citizen or US national - to study in the United States. The F1 visa is not intended as a work visa. The F1 visa does permit some very specific kinds of work while you are studying in the United States and immediately thereafter.

The reason for these work limitations is that F1 Visas are “single intent” visas, which means that the United States government created the F1 visa program so that aliens (non-US persons) can pursue an education in the United States and return to their home country after the education. The intent of the F1 visa is not to pursue work in the United States.

According to this legal advice question regarding Country of Residence you could put down either country, but the correct answer is you are a resident of your home country, since you are only a student in the USA with minimal privileges.

You are correct, that is a confusing question, especially in your current situation. Your country of residence is usually your country of nationality or domicile, outside the USA, but in this instance you can go ahead and type in "USA" if you so wish. Nothing bad will happen as a result. Your TPS application will not be denied or RFE'd as a result; don't worry.. Either way will be OK...

According to this international student website

F1 Visa Qualifications In order to qualify, applicants need to satisfy and prove several strict criteria during an F1 visa interview, including the following:

Foreign Residence F-1 applicants must have a foreign residence and must intend to return there upon the completion of their studies. Sponsoring Institution While on your F-1 visa, you may only study at the academic institution through which the visa was granted. Financial Support Applicants must demonstrate sufficient financial support — the Study USA Financing Guide can help you prepare for this aspect of your time abroad. Ties to Home Country All applicants must demonstrate that they have strong ties to their home country. Strong ties consist of, but are not limited to, the following: A job offer letter upon completion of studies Assets (i.e., house, land, vehicle, etc.) Bank accounts Family

I have reached out to CBP to clarify this and will update my answer when I get their response.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Mark Mayo
    Jul 11 '19 at 5:03

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