Most people will apply to renew their green card before applying for US citizenship, if the card is set to expire, but an unexpired green card is not a requirement for citizenship eligibility. 

Instead, applying for a new green card is a legal requirement at 8 CFR 264.5(b(2) for all green card holders if the card will be expiring within six months. However, if someone is applying for citizenship more than six months before the green card will expire, there is no requirement to file for a new green card. 

If you’re confused about what we just wrote, we understand. It’s confusing! You aren’t required to have a unexpired green card to become a US citizen, but you are required to apply for a new green card if your card is expiring. Those two rules do not seem to go together. They do, however, if you look at the fact that an applicant for naturalization must show “good moral character”, and really any violation of the law, can be considered “bad moral character”. Since applying for a new green card is a law, it is best for applicants for citizenship to comply with this law so they can show “good moral character.”

Lost or Stolen Green Cards:

US law requires a lawful permanent resident to apply for a new green card if their card has been lost or stolen. So, if you are applying for US citizenship, you should apply for a new green card if you lost yours so that you can show that you are complying with the requirements at 8 CFR 264.5(b)(1), thus making you a person of “good moral character.”

Conditional Green Cards and Naturalization:

If you have a two-year green card, through marriage to a US citizen, you must file Form I-751 before you file for US citizenship. However, your Form I-751 does not need to be approved before you file Form N-400. In fact, here at Cambridge Immigration Law, most of our clients’ I-75s are still pending when we file Form N-400. 

Aside from immigration laws requiring you to do so in most cases,, there are other reasons to renew your green card. An unexpired green card, or proof of a pending green card renewal, serves as essential documentation for international travel, home loan applications, driver’s license renewals, and employment verification.