What Happens if My Green Card Expires While I Wait for Citizenship?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently added a 24-month extension for those filing Form N-400 for naturalization/citizenship. This automatically extends your green card’s validity for 24-months if you’ve submitted Form N-400 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This way your green card remains valid while you wait for USCIS to process your citizenship application. If you applied for citizenship through naturalization before Dec. 12, 2022, you may still need to renew your green card or submit additional forms to keep your green card valid while waiting for citizenship. You will not be deported for having an expired green card, but you might run into problems while trying to apply for jobs, travel, or renew a driver’s license. In this article, we will explain what to do with an expired green card and how it affects your naturalization process.
Written by ImmigrationHelp Team.
Written March 6, 2023
How Does an Expired Green Card Affect Your Naturalization Process?
Under U.S. immigration law, you need a valid green card (also known as a permanent resident card) to apply for citizenship through naturalization. After holding a green card for five years (or three years if you have a marriage-based green card), you can apply for citizenship through naturalization.
But it can take 18-24 months for USCIS to process your citizenship application, so depending on when you apply to become a U.S. citizen, your green card may expire during the citizenship application process. Thankfully, USCIS recently changed its policy and now grants an automatic 24-month extension on your green card if you filed Form N-400 on or after Dec. 12, 2022.
Since the current wait times for naturalization are anywhere from 12 to 24 months (depending on location), you most likely will not need to worry about your green card expiring during your naturalization process.
Prior to this change, applicants had to provide additional supporting documents to prove their permanent resident status if their green card was past its expiration date. With this extension, your Form N-400 receipt (along with your expired green card) acts as your proof of permanent resident status.
What if You Applied for Naturalization Before Dec. 12th, 2022?
The new 24-month green card extension applies to anyone who filed Form N-400 on or after Dec. 12, 2022. Unfortunately, the extension does not apply to you if you filed before Dec. 12, 2022. For example, if you applied before December of 2022 and your green card is set to expire in June of 2023, your green card may expire before your naturalization process is complete. This is due to the long U.S. citizenship processing times.
The current green card renewal wait time is 20.5 months, so it is best to renew your green card as soon as possible. Luckily, the green card renewal process is very straightforward. To renew your green card, you need to file Form I-90: Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.
While you wait for your renewal to be approved, your receipt notice can be used (along with your expired green card), to prove permanent resident status. Receipt notice is also commonly referred to as Form I-797: Notice of Action.
It is important to know that Form I-90 is specifically for traditional ten year green card holders. If you are a conditional permanent resident, you need to file Form I-751: Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.
USCIS recently issued a new policy change which gives you a 48 month extension on your conditional green card if you filed your I-751 form on or after Jan. 25th, 2023. Your Form I-751 receipt (along with your expired green card), provides proof of permanent resident status.
Can You Apply for Citizenship if Your Green Card Is About To Expire?
Yes, you can! Because of the new green card extension, you can apply for citizenship right now even if your green card is about to expire. However, you will want to apply soon so that your N-400 form receipt can act as your proof of permanent resident status.
This is especially important if your green card is set to expire soon (within the next few months, for example) because evidence of permanent resident status is required for green card holders.
Will You Be Deported if Your Green Card Expires?
No, you will not be deported if you have an expired green card. As long as you remain in good moral standing, you do not need to worry about deportation due to an expired green card.
Remember: your physical green card can expire but your lawful permanent resident status does not expire.
Can You Travel or Work With an Expired Green Card?
Yes, but you will need additional paperwork. With the new green card extension, the validity of your green card is extended by 24 months if you applied for naturalization on or after Dec. 12, 2022. Your citizenship application receipt (N-400 receipt notice), plus your expired green card provides evidence of valid employment authorization.
If you applied for citizenship before Dec. 12, 2022, you will need to file Form I-90 and use your Form I-90 application receipt (along with your expired green card), to prove permanent resident status. This will allow you to work and travel with an expired green card.
If you choose to travel abroad, it is important you have both your Form I-90 receipt and your expired green card (these are your travel documents) with you when you reenter the U.S. If you attempt to return with only an expired green card, your reentry into the U.S. may be denied.
If you need proof of residency right away (for a new job application, for example), an Alien Documentation, Identification and Telecommunication (ADIT) stamp can be administered from USCIS. You can get an ADIT stamp (also known as an I-551 stamp), by getting in touch with the USCIS contact center.
Have Immigration Questions?
If your case is particularly confusing or if you have questions about the green card renewal process or the general naturalization process, you may want to speak with an immigration attorney. Get your questions answered by independent attorneys through our Ask an Attorney program for $24/month.