Ask an Immigration Lawyer: I’m Waiting to Receive Citizenship. Can I Still Attend College?

Art by Alan López for Remezcla

It’s a frightening time for immigrants. Although previous presidents have deported immigrants in large numbers, many – especially those without criminal records – felt a relative sense of normalcy. But with an administration that is outwardly hostile toward immigrant populations, any comfort previously felt is gone. As Donald Trump attempts to tighten immigration laws and cut down on even legal forms of migration into the United States, it can be difficult to keep up with the changing landscape.

That’s why we have launched the Ask an Immigration Lawyer column. Twice a month, Nubia Willman – a Chicago-based immigration attorney with nearly decade of experience – answers your questions about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and more. This column is not meant to be construed as legal advice. You should not act upon any information provided without seeking the advice of an attorney licensed to practice law in your state. 

Submit a question here and check out previous columns here.

Dear Nubia: I applied for my citizenship, and I am supposed to have my case completed in September 2019, but my green card expires in June 2019. I’m wondering if I will still be able to somehow go to college in August if I am undocumented at that time.

College Bound

Dear College Bound: First, congratulations on your college acceptance! College is a major milestone, and I hope you have been able to celebrate that accomplishment. But it’s probably a little difficult to celebrate when you think that once your lawful permanent residency expires you become undocumented. The good news is that even if your green card expires, your lawful permanent residency (LPR) does not because only an immigration judge can revoke your status as a green card holder. The government allows the cards to expire as a safety measure to ensure it receives periodic updated information from each LPR living in the US, but you remain an LPR with or without a current green card. That means that when you begin school, you will still be eligible to enroll as an in-state student and you are still eligible to apply for federal financial aid.

Of course, most schools and employers will want current proof of your status to confirm you are eligible. In those cases, it may be smart to apply for a new green card so that you have proof of your status. You can go to and fill out an I-90 for a green card renewal. However, if you’ve ever been in contact with law enforcement either before or after obtaining residency, you should speak to an attorney before filing anything. One more thing, College Bound, it is possible that your citizenship application will be decided before immigration can even issue a new green card. In that case, you may be out the fees that come with applying for a new card. But in the event that immigration takes longer than September, having a valid LPR card will help make things easier as you wait for your naturalization to finalize.

Congrats again on this new chapter!


Disclaimer: The information on this column is not legal advice. Legal information is not the same as legal advice, which is the application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances. The information provided in this column is not a substitute for and does not replace the advice or representation of a licensed attorney. Although Remezcla goes to great lengths to make sure the information on the column is accurate and up to date, we make no claim as to the accuracy of this information and are not responsible for any consequences that may result from the use of this column.

We recommend that you consult with a licensed attorney if you want assurance that the information on the Remezcla and your interpretation of it are appropriate for your particular situation. You should not and are not authorized to rely on this column as a source of legal advice. The use of this column does not create an attorney-client relationship between Remezcla, its agents, and any user.