Should you Renew your Green Card or Apply for US Citizenship?

If your green card is about to expire within six months, you may be wondering whether to apply for US citizenship or just to renew your green card. Your decision will depend on a few things. First, you will need to determine whether you are eligible for citizenship. If you have had your green card for at least five years, have maintained US residence for most of that time, and have good moral character, you may qualify for citizenship. If you are an asylum seeker, refugee, or married to a US citizen, you may not need to wait five years before applying for citizenship.

Applying successfully for citizenship requires passing a USCIS interview and citizenship test. Therefore, you need to make sure that you have good English skills before you apply. You will also generally want to sign up for citizenship classes or start studying US civics and history to ensure that you have the skills and knowledge you need to pass the naturalization exam. Before you decide to apply for citizenship, you also need to consider whether you are ready for responsibilities and rights of US citizenship. Your green card gives you most of the benefits of citizenship, excluding the right to vote and hold public office.

If you do decide to apply for US citizenship, you will need to submit USCIS form N-400 and follow all the instructions on that form, including instructions regarding filing fees, photographs, and fingerprinting. Once you have correctly submitted your form, USCIS will contact you regarding your interview and naturalization test. Once you have taken the test, you will receive the results. If you have passed and are eligible to become a US citizen, you must then attend a naturalization ceremony where you will become a US citizen.

If you do not qualify for US citizenship or decide not to pursue naturalization, then you will want to renew your green card instead. While your permanent residence does not expire, your green card does, and having an expired green card can create legal trouble. Generally, you will renew your green card by filing Form I-90 within six months of your green card expiry date. However, if you are a conditional permanent resident you will need to file Form I-751 (if you received your green card through marriage) or Form I-829 (if you received your green card through investment).