Can I Apply for Citizenship With an Expired Green Card?

All permanent residents of the United States are recipients of a green card. These immigrants have the option of continuing to renew their card or become a citizen when eligible. The document typically expires every ten years. You cannot apply for citizenship with an expired green card.

When wishing to change your status from a legal permanent resident to a naturalized U.S. citizen, it is important that you apply for citizenship in time. If you wait too long, you will first have to renew your green card before applying for citizenship. Expired green cards can cause severe consequences.

a closeup of a green card
A closeup of a Green Card. Learn about your options for applying for citizenship if your Green Card has expired.

Does an Expired Green Card Change My Residency Status?

An expired green card does NOT change your status as a legal permanent resident. In the eyes of the government, it is proof of that legal status. Having an expired green card can, however, cause problems.

When Can I Apply for Naturalization?

If you are eligible to apply for naturalization, the official stance of the USCIS is that you can do so if your green card is six months or more from expiration. If it is, you do not have to renew. But you still can if you are worried about the process taking longer than expected. To renew, you would fill out a Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.

If you apply for naturalization less than six months before your green card expires, or if you apply after it has expired, you are required to renew the green card first, according to USCIS.

Am I Breaking the Law if My Green Card Expires?

According to the law, green card holders over 18 years old who let their card expire, “shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall upon conviction for each offense be fined not to exceed $100 or be imprisoned not more than 30 days, or both.”

Can I Get a New Job With an Expired Green Card?

Your employer is required by law to verify if you are eligible to work legally in the United States. As a green card holder, that’s not typically an issue unless your card is expired. The verification process includes USCIS Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. This form requires that your employer take a look at your proof of immigration status.

Not having a valid green card could lead to issues with your new employer.

Can I Travel Outside the U.S. on an Expired Green Card?

If your green card has expired, traveling outside the United States may be a problem. Green card holders are required to prove their immigration status when reentering the country.

If you know your green card will expire while you’re out of the country, you may request an I-551 stamp that is valid for a year. This stamp should allow you to reenter the country without an issue.

Traveling on an expired green card may be risky because several issues may come up. You may not be allowed back into the United States. Some airlines may not even let you board the plane. The safest thing to do is to renew your green card as soon as possible.

Can I Renew My Driver’s License if My Green Card Has Expired?

Most states require you to provide proof of your immigration status in order to renew your driver’s license. It may take four to six months or longer to receive your new green card, so it’s important to know when your driver’s license and green card expire. Some states offer driver’s licenses to immigrants with proof of residency.

Green Card Renewal Process

If you have less than six months until your green card expires, or if it is already expired, you will have to renew it before you apply for citizenship. Depending on the type of green card you have, the process and, more importantly, the forms you file will be different.

Permanent Residents

If you are a permanent resident, your card is valid for 10 years. To renew, you have to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. This is the same form you would use if your card was lost or stolen. Don’t let the title fool you.

Conditional Residents

Those with conditional green cards will see their cards expire two years after the issue date. Those residents will have to file a Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence within 90 days of the card’s expiration.

Two forms are available for conditional residents:

  • Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence based on marriage applies if you are married to an American citizen or a permanent resident.
  • Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions, applies if you were granted residency based on investments by you or a family member.

Other Circumstances for Expired Green Card Holders

If you are a legal permanent resident and your green card expires, your status as a permanent resident will not change. However, you will likely encounter some of the problems listed above.   

However, for conditional green card holders, if your card expires and you fail to renew in time, you will become removable from the United States. You can apply late, but you will need to provide concrete evidence explaining to the USCIS why you were unable to file on time. An immigration officer will then approve or deny your petition.

If you have not applied to renew your green card and it expires while you’re outside the United States, you should contact the nearest port of entry, U.S. Consulate, or USCIS office before attempting to file for renewal.

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