Renew Your Green Card or Apply for Citizenship: Know Which One is Right for You
Amidst all the complicated language surrounding immigration laws, you might catch yourself wondering which path is right for you. While they both grant you the right to continue your residence in the United States, there are actually some pretty significant differences between the option to renew your green card or apply for citizenship. In order to know which path best fits your needs, it’s in your benefit to do your homework on what these differences are.
Green Card or Apply For Citizenship?
If you have been in the U.S. with a green card for 5 years or more, you may be eligible to apply for Citizenship! There are numerous benefits awarded to U.S. Citizens such as being able to live in the U.S. and find employment, citizens are awarded those benefits and more. As a U.S. citizen:
- You have access to the full benefits offered to citizens by the U.S. government which include social security, medical, and welfare benefits
- You are no longer have to fear deportation as citizens cannot be deported
- You can travel anywhere outside the U.S. with a U.S. passport
- You can vote in federal, state, and local elections, and you can serve on a jury.
- If your child is under 18 years old and is in your legal and physical custody at the time you naturalize, they automatically derive citizenship from you and will not have to go through the same naturalization process you did
- You can also sponsor other family members, such as spouses and parents, for green cards or immigrant visas
When considering whether you should renew your green card or apply for citizenship, consider whether any benefits awarded to citizens apply to you.
You can read more about the differences between a green card and citizenship here.
Are You Eligible to Apply for Citizenship?
Before deciding whether to renew your green card or apply for citizenship, check whether you qualify to apply for citizenship in the first place. You are eligible for citizenship if:
- You have had a green card for over 5 years
- You live in the U.S. as a permanent resident
- You display characteristics of an upstanding citizen (no major criminal record, for example)
There are also certain exceptions to these rules for asylum seekers, refugees, and individuals who are married to U.S. citizens.
For more information, click here.
Renewing Your Green Card
If you have not been in the U.S. for 5 years, or you think that renewing your green card makes more sense at this time, make sure that you are familiar with the renewal process so that you are completely prepared to apply. A green card for a regular permanent resident is valid for 10 years. So if you intend on staying in the U.S., it is crucial that you renew it up to six months before expiration to allow for the USCIS to process your renewal. Thankfully, the renewal process is much simpler than applying for your first green card.
- Begin by filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card either by mail or online by E-Filing
- If you are outside the United States and have not applied for renewal before you left, contact the nearest U.S. Consulate or USCIS office before filing Form I-90 to determine what steps if any should be taken before filing
If you’d like assistance in filing Form I-90, Road to Status offers pain-free personal assistance through the process.
What if My Application is Denied?
Whether you renew your green card or apply for citizenship, if your application is denied you can file an appeal against the decision. If you were to do this, you would need to file a motion to reopen or motion to reconsider with the same USCIS office that you filed your application through. By doing this, you are asking the USCIS to reconsider its decision about your application.
There are differences between the two motions, though, and require different actions on your part to make sure they are filed properly:
- Motions to reopen must state new facts that are relevant to your application that would alter the decision given to your application
- Motions to reconsider must establish that the decision to reject your application was based on an incorrect application of law
Both appeal options are equally viable, but it is important to file the proper motion that is relevant to your case to stand the best chance of the initial decision being overturned.
While they may seem similar, there are significant differences between renewing your green card and applying for citizenship. Before applying for either, it is in your best interest to assess your own situation first. If you have any questions, or need help determining which option is right for you, Road to Status is happy to provide any assistance you may need.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about applying for U.S. citizenship, renewing a green card, or checking their eligibility for the benefits of these paths, our blog is a great place to find up to date information and useful resources. Additionally, if your case is more complex and you would like to speak with a licensed immigration attorney, you can learn more about the benefits of an initial consultation before deciding on the best path for you here.
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The newsletters and articles found in this blog are offered only for general informational and educational purposes. They are not offered as and do not constitute legal advice or legal opinions.
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