Can I Apply for Citizenship if I Lost My Green Card or It Expired?

In the past, USCIS and some immigration attorneys believed that you could not become a naturalized citizen if you did not have a valid green card (LPR) to bring with you to your naturalization interview. This is an error.

If you have the same issue, don’t worry – you may still be able to apply for citizenship. USCIS will allow someone with an expired or lost green card to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen.

So save yourself the time and expense associated with filing the I-90 to get a replacement green card. If you are eligible for naturalization, this issue will not derail your application.

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Why the Green Card Is Important for Immigrants

Some people might think that getting a green card is not essential. But it’s not true.

A Green Card is a Permanent Resident Card. It’s a document that proves that you are a legal permanent resident of the United States. Most immigrants call it an alien registration card, Form I-551, or simply “green card.” 

With a Green Card, you have all the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship, with a few exceptions. Holders can travel inside and out of the United States without any problems. Besides that, they can also work and live in the United States permanently.

Getting a green card is not as complicated as some people think, and there are many different ways to get one. One of the easiest ways is through family sponsorship or employment-based immigration. But you can also get green cards through programs for refugees and asylum seekers.

How to Apply for Citizenship if You Lost Your Green Card or It Expired

So what if I lost my green card? That question is common for most immigrants.

A lost or stolen green card can be a stressful thing. However, there are 2 steps you need to ensure your application is processed correctly. 

Step 1: Gather All Requirements for Citizenship

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services handles processing naturalization applications. Such as those from permanent residents who meet the eligibility requirements.

Following are the temporary proof or requirements needed to file for citizenship:

  • You are more than 18 years old.
  • You have lived in your current state or USCIS district for at least 3 months.
  • You have been a permanent resident of the United States for at least 5 years. Or, in any case, at least 3 years if you are married to a U.S. citizen.
  • You meet the physical presence requirements.
  • You demonstrate good moral character and knowledge of English and U.S. history.

Step 2: Submit Form I-90 or Application to Replace Permanent Resident

If you reside in the United States, it is vital to keep your Permanent Resident Card (PRC) up to date. The PRC is evidence of your status as a lawful permanent resident and allows you to live and work in the United States.

If your PRC is lost or stolen, or if it has been damaged, you will need to replace it by filing Form I-90 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You can file the form for free, but some applicants have a filing fee.

Note: Paper applications are no longer accepted. If you want a more convenient option, filing online is an excellent way to go. Also, if you choose to replace your green card in person, you will need to schedule an appointment at a USCIS office. Plus, you need to bring proof of identity, such as a passport or driver’s license.

In either case, you can then begin applying for citizenship. Once done, USCIS will review the application and make a decision. If approved, the replacement card will be sent by mail.

How Long Does Getting Your New Green Card Take?

For most people, getting a new green card is pretty straightforward. In other words, there are a few things that can impact the timeline.

Here are the different scenarios:

  • If everything is in order, the replacement green card will be sent to the applicant within six to eight weeks.
  • If you need to replace your stolen green card urgently, you can request expedited processing. But with an additional fee.
  • If you move to a new address, you’ll need to update your address with USCIS. This can add a few weeks to the process. 
  • If you apply for an employment-based green card, your application may undergo more processing and review. This case adds several months to the timeline.
  • In cases of extreme hardship, it may also be possible to request an emergency green card replacement.

Ultimately, the best way to ensure a timely process is to work with an immigration attorney. A law firm can help you get the necessary documentation. Besides that, ensure that your application is complete and accurate.

Four Consequences of Not Renewing Your Green Card

If you do not renew your expired green card, you will lose your permanent resident status in the United States.

Losing your permanent resident status has serious consequences, such as:

  1. You will no longer be able to work in the United States.
  2. You’re ineligible for certain government agency benefits.
  3. You’re not allowed to return to the US in the future.
  4. Subject for deportation

Therefore, the risks associated with not renewing your Green Card are significant and should not be taken lightly. So, the best way to avoid those pitfalls is to ensure that your green card is up to date

Seek Help from Experienced Immigration Attorneys

If you’re in a situation where your green card has been lost or expired, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. Gaining citizenship is a big step in your life. That’s why you want to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. 

An immigration attorney can help you in determining your next steps. Our team of experienced lawyers is happy to answer any questions you have during the process.

Contact Hacking Law Practice

Are there any special visas for translators who assisted US forces in Afghanistan or Iraq?

Under United States immigration law, there are two Special Immigrant Visas available for Iraqi citizens or nationals who have worked for the United States. These visas allow qualifying individuals to come to the United States as green card holders. One is offered for translators and interpreters with the United States armed forces; the second is for Iraqis who have worked for or on behalf of the United States government. The two programs are distinct, although some translators or interpreters may qualify under both programs.

To qualify for the special immigrant visa for translators and interpreters, an applicant must be a national of Iraq; must have worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or the U.S. Embassy Baghdad or U.S. Embassy Kabul as a translator or interpreter for not less than one year; and must have a letter of recommendation from a General or Flag Officer in the unit the translator supported, or from the Chief of Mission from the embassy where the translator worked. There are 50 visas available each year in this category. An applicant’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may also be granted visas.

To qualify for the special immigrant visa for Iraqis who have worked for or on behalf of the United States, an applicant must be a national of Iraq; must have worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq for not less than one year between March 20, 2003, and September 30, 2013; must have a letter of recommendation from a supervisor which states that the applicant provided “faithful and valuable service” to the government; and must have faced, or be currently facing, an ongoing serious threat because of the applicant’s work for the U.S. government. There are 2,500 visas available for this program, which currently ends on September 30, 2014. Applications must apply on or before that date. Again, an applicant’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may also be granted visas.

To apply for either of these programs, an applicant must submit Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, to the United States Citizenship and Immigrant Services. The applicant must include proof of Iraqi nationality (such as a birth certificate or national identification card, along with a certified translation), and the supporting documents listed above. The fee for a visa application for translators or interpreters is $375. There is no fee associated with a visa application for Iraqis who have worked for the U.S. government.

Are the vaccinations for a green card mandatory or can I get a waiver?

Every person applying for lawful permanent residence (“green card”) is required to complete a Medical Exam which includes vaccinations. Here’s what you need to know if you do not wish to receive vaccinations for moral or religious reasons:
1. The medical exam and vaccinations are required for all persons regardless of age. Some immigrants may only be required to do a part of the exam since they would have completed a medical exam oversees (for example, K-1 fiancees, refugees, V non-immigrant visa).

2. You will be required to submit a waiver of the vaccination requirement. You must show that you objection on religious or moral grounds, you object to all vaccinations in any form, and your beliefs are sincere. The waiver is filed on Form I-690 and has a $200 filing fee.

3. In some instances, vaccinations can be waived for medical reasons or if a person received the vaccination but does not have the documentation.

What is ELIS and when will my spouse receive their green card?

The U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services’ Electronic Immigration System (USCIS ELIS) is an online system set up by USCIS to give customers a better way to track and update their applications for immigration benefits. ELIS users will need to set up an account in order to make payments, submit applications, and receive notices.  Launched in May 2012, it currently allows you to pay the new USCIS Immigrant Fee and file certain Change of Status Applications (I-539). You must use either Microsoft Internet Explorer versions 6 and higher or Mozilla Firefox versions 3 and higher.

New USCIS Immigrant Fee

This is the final step in getting your Permanent Resident Card in a long journey that started when you or your family member filed a visa petition.  After you or your relative has received their immigrant visa package from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, you will need to remember to pay the USCIS Immigrant fee of $165 in order for you or your relative to receive their Permanent Resident Card (“green card”) in the U.S.

In order to pay this fee, you will need to create an account on USCIS ELIS. Your attorney cannot create an account for you, however, they can create an account for themselves if you wish for them to represent you.  There is no filing fee waiver available. You will need to have your alien number and your Department of State Case ID number ready in order to pay the fee.  This information should be in the immigrant visa package you received from the Consulate or Embassy.

You can use a credit, debit card or pay through a U.S. bank account transaction.  Don’t forget to print out a copy of your receipt as proof of your payment as it cannot be re-generated.

Using the USCIS ELIS for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (I-539).

You can know use ELIS to change or extend your status if you are a:

  • Nonimmigrants in B-1, B-2, F-1, M-1 or M-2 visa categories to extend their stay;
  • Nonimmigrants who want to change their visa status to the B-1, B-2, F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, M-1 or M-2 nonimmigrant status; and
  • F and M nonimmigrants to apply for reinstatement of status.

Other categories will need to use the paper filing application process. Forms are available at uscis.gov.

My US citizen husband filed a spouse visa and green card application for me. But then he left me. Will my green card application be automatically denied?


The answer is no, not necessarily.  You may still be eligible to obtain lawful permanent resident status.  The most important question is whether the marriage was entered into in good faith.  If you and your spouse entered into the marriage in good faith and there was no fraud involved, the fact that you and your spouse may be separated at the time of the lawful permanent resident status interview does not prohibit USCIS from approving your application.

Obviously, it is a lot harder to get such an application approved, but it is not impossible.

Precedent from the Board of Immigration Appeals and federal courts makes clear that if a marriage is valid at the time that it is entered in to, it is valid for immigration purposes.  Matter of Boromand, 17 I&N Dec. 450, 454 (BIA 1980).  This is true even if the spouses are separated.  Id.  This is also true even if the marriage is no longer viable.  Id.  “In the absence of evidence to support a finding of a fraudulent or sham marriage or evidence showing the legal dissolution of the marriage at the time of the adjustment, the denial of an adjustment of status application or the subsequent rescission of such grant cannot be based solely on the nonviability of the marriage at the time of the adjustment application.”  Id.

See also, Matter of McKee, 17 I&N Dec. 332 (BIA 1980) (visa petition could not be denied solely because the parties to the marriage were no longer living together); Hernandez v. Ashcroft, 345 F.3d 824, 845-49 (9th Cir. 2003) (the nonviability of a marriage cannot alone be the basis to deny adjustment even if USCIS characterizes its decision to deny adjustment as discretionary.

If the marriage was entered into in good faith, a petition remains approvable even if the parties are no longer in love with one another.  Agyeman v. INS, 296 F.3d 871, 883 (9th Cir. 2002) (reversing immigration judge who told respondent that he was ineligible to adjust if his wife was no longer in love).  The key inquiry is whether the parties intended to “establish a life together at the time of their marriage.”  Bark v. INS, 511 F.2d 1200, 1202 (9th Cir. 1975).

If you find yourself in a situation like this, your best bet is to hire an experienced immigration attorney to assist.  To have any chance of approval, you will need substantial, documented evidence that the marriage was entered into in good faith.  An attorney can help you gather and submit that evidence in a coherent manner.

What are the USCIS requirements for passport-type photos?

We are frequently asked about the passport-type photos that are submitted to USCIS in virtually all types of applications – asylum, citizenship, visas and green cards.  Here are some photo tips:

  • Two photos are needed
  • The photos should be glossy and in color
  • The background should be plain white
  • The person should be looking straight into the camera
  • The photo must have been taken in the previous 30 days
  • USCIS likes for the photo to have 1 inche from the bottom of the chin to the top of the hair

When submitting the photos to USCIS, you should write the name and alien number of the person appearing in the photograph on the back.  If you need help with submitting photos or other documents to USCIS, contact Missouri and Illinois immigration attorney Jim Hacking.  We will be happy to help.