Ask an Immigration Lawyer: What Should I Do About My Expiring Green Card While I Wait for Citizenship?

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 filed for my citizenship in December 2018. My green card expires in April 2020. As per the expected wait time in Dallas, Texas, I should get my citizenship by July 2020. My question is, do I need to renew my GC? My second question is my kids are under 18 years old; their GC also expires by April 2020, and I can only apply for their citizenship until I  get one. So will I have to renew my or their GC or both or should I just do theirs?

–Waiting for Citizenship

Dear Waiting: The short answer is that yes, you can gain citizenship even if your green card has expired. And when you’re so close to naturalizing, I can see the allure of saving hundreds of dollars that come with renewing a lawful permanent resident (LPR) card. However, issues come up, processing times take longer than expected, and one may find themselves with an expired green card and no answer on their citizenship application. What happens then? While you remain a lawful permanent resident, even with an expired card, there are some risks that come with not renewing the card.

First, it is technically the law that an LPR should always carry a valid green card on their person. It is rarely ever enforced, but in this day and age, it’s a regulation that requires stronger consideration.

Second, even if you never need to prove your status to law enforcement officials, a valid green card may be needed for other things that come up in your life. You need a valid card to travel outside of the country. If you want to apply for a loan, apply for financial aid, renew your driver’s license, or apply for a new job – all of these will require that you show a valid card.

A green card isn’t just a stepping stone to citizenship, but rather a tool that allows you to live your life day to day. I know it’s a risk to spend money on a renewal fee that you may ultimately not need. However, in instances when you need a valid green card and yours is expired, the cost may be way more than just the renewal fee.

As for children, the good news is that if kids are LPRs, live in the U.S., and are under 18 when a parent becomes a citizen, then they automatically become citizens too – no new application required.


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.