If your green card has expired, you may wonder whether you are still eligible to apply for citizenship.
Short answer: Yes, you can apply for citizenship even if your green card is expired.
Longer answer: You are eligible to apply for citizenship if your green card is expired, but you may run into some problems in the interim related to your expired green card.
Permanent residents in the US are all issued a green card. Usually, these green cards give you the option to apply for citizenship after a certain period of time and expire every 10 years.
Strictly speaking, permanent residents are required by law to hold a valid green card at all times, though this law is often not enforced. If your green card expires, it is pretty easy for it to go unnoticed. Considering that it currently costs $540 to renew a green card, it is no surprise that many permanent residents let their green cards lapse into expiration.
We should be very clear here: an expired green card does not invalidate your permanent resident status. You will not lose your immigration status, although the physical card that proves your immigration status may not be valid for many uses.
Moreover, you can still apply for citizenship even if your green card is expired. The federal government does not require possessing a valid green card as a prerequisite to applying for citizenship.
Problems From An Expired Green Card
Although you do not lose your permanent resident status and are still eligible to apply for citizenship, not having a green card can cause other problems. Below, we discuss a few areas in which not having a valid green card can cause trouble.
Breaking The Law
According to the law, any permanent resident 18 years or older who is caught without a valid green card can be convicted of a misdemeanor crime and face a fine of up to $100 or be imprisoned for up to 30 days.
Getting A Job
In order to work in the US, permanent residents have to provide their green card details to employers for tax purposes. If you do not have a valid green card, then employers are not supposed to hire you, though, in reality, some employers do not abide by these rules. If you don’t have a valid green card, you can use a foreign passport with a temporary I-551 stamp to verify your identity, but these are costly and take a long time to acquire.
Re-entering The US
If you have an expired green card and leave the country, it will be much more difficult to reenter the US. First off, many airlines won’t seat passengers that do not have a valid green card and US Customs & Border Protection requires all non-citizens to provide proof of lawful permanent residence before reentering the country. In the worst case, an expired green card can mean you can be refused entry. Most often, it will cause long delays and expensive reentry fees.
Buying A House
Generally, permanent residents have access to the same housing mortgages citizens can apply for. However, permanent residents are required to present proof of their lawful permanent residency to receive housing loans. Since an expired green card can take 10-12 months to renew, an expired card can throw a huge wrench in the gears of your housing plans.
Obtaining A Professional License
Some occupations require professional licenses, which can be impossible to acquire without a valid green card. A valid green card is a requirement for certification in many states for professions like real estate agents, healthcare workers, lawyers, insurance agents, etc. Further, most states do not allow people to practice these professions without a professional license.
Apply For Citizenship With An Expired Green Card
Immigration law does not explicitly require a valid green card to apply for naturalization. While it is a good idea to keep your green card up to date and renewed, it is not mandatory for applying for citizenship.
In order to apply for citizenship, you must fill out the N-400 Application for Naturalization. The application fee is $640 and applicants may be required to pay an extra $85 biometric fee. These fees are nonrefundable.
Conditional Green Cards Are Different
Conditional green cards are a bit different. Conditional green cards are usually only valid for a year or two and when a conditional green card expires, so does your conditional immigration status. In order to remove the conditional restrictions from your conditional green card, you must fill out Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. Once you convert from conditional to permanent residency, you must spend a few years as a permanent resident before being eligible to apply for US citizenship. If your conditional green card expires and you do not file to remove its conditional restrictions, you can be deported from the country.
Get Help With Citizenship Or Green Cards
If you have any questions regarding green cards or applying for citizenship, reach out to us at Pride Immigration. We have over a decade of experience in immigration law and have helped countless individuals apply for green cards and other residence documents.