Published September 20, 2016
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Headquarters recently issued a directive clarifying the circumstances under which prospective applicants for naturalization – filing Form N-400 – must also renew their Permanent Resident cards and file Form I-90. The directive establishes guidelines that are at odds with practices that had long been in place at local CIS offices, such as Chicago’s, since naturalization applicants with expired green cards were rarely, if ever, asked whether the Green Card renewal process had been initiated during the course of a naturalization interview/process.
The following are the two most common scenarios applicants will face:
1. N-400 applicant’s Green Card expiration is more than 6 months away
Permanent residents whose resident cards will expire that far off are not required to file Form I-90 if they are filing an N-400 Application for Naturalization. In fact, the I-90 application instructions appears to even forbid its filing if the card has more than 6 months validity remaining. Further, the filing of Form I-90 will not be required of the applicant at any point while their N-400 application remains pending. If the Permanent Resident’s card then expires while the N-400 process is ongoing, the resident is eligible to visit their local CIS office to obtain an I-551 stamp in their passport evidencing his/her resident status if they need proof of resident status for purposes of employment or international travel – and without proof that an I-90 was filed. To obtain that stamp, the Permanent Resident will have to show their expired resident card, a valid passport and the CIS N-400 processing receipt.
2. N-400 applicant’s Green Card has already expired, or expiration is less than 6 months away
Permanent residents who wish to file for naturalization, but whose resident cards have expired, or will expire in less than 6 months, are advised to also file Form I-90 in addition to their N-400 Application for Naturalization. If the resident/N-400 applicant will need to obtain an I-551 resident stamp as a means of proving status for purposes of employment or international travel, he/she can visit their local CIS office and should be prepared to present their expired resident card, valid passport AND I-90 processing receipt.
In my experience, I have yet to see a client’s Application for Naturalization be denied for failure to adhere to the above rule, although that does not mean such a denial could not take place in the future. For pending N-400 applicants who might be in violation of the above rule, a good case can be made for that applicant to avoid a denial or other adverse consequences given the relatively recent institution of the policy. Going forward though, it is advisable that Permanent Residents seeking to apply for U.S. citizenship comply and keep this directive in mind.
PUBLISHED September 20, 2016– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2016, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois