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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

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2022 Immigrant’s Guide to 
Becoming a U.S. Citizen

This guide contains all you need to know to become  
a U.S. citizen.

Download Free Guide 2022 Immigrant’s Guide to Becoming a U.S. Citizen

This guide contains all you need to know
to become a U.S. citizen.

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