FAQ

The path to U.S. citizenship involves obtaining a permanent residence card, more commonly known as a Green Card. It is important to remember that the card is the only evidence of its holder's status, not the status itself. While the status as a permanent resident never expires, the card confirming that its holder is a permanent resident of the United States does. A Green Card is usually valid for ten years. After this time has passed, the green card holder is expected to renew the card using Form I-90, Application to Replace Green Card Card. By law, permanent residents are expected to carry a valid green card with them at all times, as one of the responsibilities of being a permanent resident. It is also important to keep in mind that applying for citizenship or naturalization can be a months-long process. Spending all that time without a valid Green Card could make it difficult to search for employment, prove the permanent resident status to future or current employer, and in some instances to reenter the United States if traveling abroad.

With that in mind, it is possible to apply for citizenship with an expired Green Card and still be approved. Immigration law does not specifically require a valid Green Card to establish eligibility for naturalization. Many people have chosen to simply apply for U.S. citizenship after their green card has expired, or not to it if it expires while the applicant is waiting for a USCIS decision on their citizenship application. While USCIS policy goes back and forth on how accepting it is of this practice, the lack of a renewed green card should not, by itself, hold up a naturalization approval. However, the safest option would be if the date of the application is more than six months before the date the Green Card expires.

So, while it is not necessary to have a valid Green Card when applying for citizenship, it is much safer to renew it to avoid any potential legal complications.

Conditional Permanent Residents

Special conditions apply for conditional residents since the expiration date on a conditional green card means not only the expiration of the card but the expiration of its holder's status. Conditional residents must first apply to adjust the conditions of their status to that of permanent residence, and spend some years as a permanent resident, before applying for U.S. citizenship.

Lost or Stolen Green Cards

Although many applicants have successfully filed Form N-400 with a lost or stolen green card, it is highly recommended to apply to renew it. During the Oath of Allegiance Ceremony are required to return their Green Card in exchange for a Certificate of Naturalization. If your green card has been lost or stolen (or has been mutilated beyond recognition), USCIS recommends that you replace your green card using Form I-90, Application to Replace Green Card Card.

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