Renew Green Card or File for Citizenship

By Reuben S. Seguritan

When an alien obtains his lawful permanent residence (LPR) status, he is closer to becoming a US citizen. Generally, the LPR must meet certain requirements in order to file his N-400 Application for Naturalization. These requirements are: he must be a lawful permanent resident (have a green card); demonstrate continuous permanent residence in the United States for at least 5 years (3 years if married to a US citizen); be 18 years old or older at the time of filing; be physically present in the US for at least half of the 3 or 5 years and show that he has lived at least 3 months in the state or USCIS district where he claims residence.

The correct filing fee must be paid, the N-400 must be completely filled out and the supporting documents such as a copy of the green card and marriage certificate if he is married should be included with the N-400 application.

A lawful permanent resident (LPR) who wishes to become a US citizen should submit his N-400 Application for Naturalization while his green card still has at least six (6) months of validity. This is to avoid having to pay the filing fee and biometric fee for his green card renewal.

It is worth noting that the I-551 or the permanent resident card expires every ten years. To those who want to continue to become green card holders and stay that way, they need to file an I-90 six months before its expiration date.

The USCIS Field Operations Directorate has clarified that a naturalization applicant with a pending N-400 application must apply for a renewal of his green card if it will expire within six (6) months. This means that the naturalization applicant needs to submit an I-90 with the corresponding filing fees. USCIS will issue an Alien Documentary Identification and Telecommunication (ADIT) stamp as temporary proof of permanent residence upon showing of an I-90 receipt notice.

It is important to maintain a valid green card. If the green card has already expired, there may be problems when the LPR travels, seeks or keeps employment or applies for public benefits.

In addition, not carrying a valid green card is considered a misdemeanor. Section 264 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states, “Every alien in the United States . . . shall be issued a certificate of alien registration or an alien registration receipt card in such form and manner and at such time as shall be prescribed under regulations . . Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him . . .. Any alien who fails to comply with these provisions shall be guilty of a misdemeanor …” The punishment for this misdemeanor is a fine of $100 and/or imprisonment for not more than 30 days.
If an LPR has a criminal record he may be putting himself at risk when he renews his green card. He should consult an immigration attorney before submitting his I-90 application. If his crime is a ground for deportation, he may be placed under removal proceedings and will appear before an immigration judge.

Crimes that may subject a person to deportation include aggravated felonies, crimes involving drugs, domestic violence, crimes involving moral turpitude and sex crimes.