If you have received a green card in the United States, you have already accomplished what so many people around the world strive for each year. And, ideally, you should continue the process and apply for citizenship after three or five years. But if you have not gotten around to applying for citizenship, you will eventually have to renew your green card, typically after ten years.
What does it mean if my green card expires?
Your green card contains an expiration date on it, and it is important to understand what that date means. It does not mean you will lose your lawful status in this country. On the contrary, when you were given a green card, you were given lawful permanent residence, and that status can only be taken away if you commit a removable immigration violation. And, even then, you will likely have an opportunity to challenge that determination in immigration court.
So, while your status is permanent, you do need to renew the card itself from time to time, or else you could have trouble proving your status when you apply for a job, a drivers license, or social security card, for example. To review an expired green card, simply file Form I-90 with the government, and pay a fee of $450 dollars.
Special note for conditional residents
If you obtained your green card through marriage or a job offer and were granted two-year conditional residence, you should not file Form I-90 to renew it. Instead, you must apply to have your condition removed using Form I-751, and you must begin that process before the two-year period expires, or you could lose your lawful immigration status altogether.
What if I never received my green card, or my green card has a mistake on it?
If you never received you green card, or if USCIS made a mistake on your card, you should apply for a new card using Form I-90. The filing fee will be waived.
What if my green card was lost or stolen?
If you lost your green card, file a police report right away, and keep a copy of that report in case you need it in future immigration matters. Ultimately, you will have to apply for a new green card using Form I-90, just as if your green card was expiring. Because it is relatively easy to lose a green card, it is always a good idea to keep photocopies of it, so that if it ever goes missing, you will have access to critical information, such as your alien number, when you were granted permanent resident status, and when your green card will expire.
What do I do if my green card is expiring and I want to apply for citizenship?
If your green card will not expire for at least six months or more, then you may apply for citizenship without renewing it. But if your green card expires in less than six months, you must first apply for a new green card.
But you do not necessarily have to wait for the new green card before applying for citizenship. Simply attach the receipt notice for your green card replacement application (Form I-90) to your citizenship application. By the time of your citizenship interview, you should have already received your new green card.
What if I lost my green card and I want to apply for citizenship?
If you know that your green card will not expire for at least six months, then you may simply apply for citizenship, but you should file a police report as soon as you realize that your green card was lost or stolen. When you appear at your citizenship interview, the officer will ask for your green card, so you will want to have a copy of the police report available to prove that you took action after your green card went missing. But if you know that your green card will expire in less than six months, then you should simply file an I-90 application to replace it before applying for citizenship.
Can I get temporary proof of my immigration status while my request for a new green card is pending?
Yes, but only if you still have your old green card or a valid passport. When you appear for your biometrics appointment (fingerprints and photos), USCIS will give you a sticker on the back of your old green card extending the expiration date, or it will put an I-551 stamp in your passport.
If you lost your green card or if your green card is expiring, call me today to discuss your options.
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