Permanent resident cards (green cards) come with a ten year validity period and has to be renewed on its expiry. Per the USCIS, if your green card has less than six months of validity, you are required to renew it before filing an application for naturalization (Form N-400). It is mandatory that you submit a photocopy of your unexpired green card when you apply to become a citizen.
Your green card can be renewed/replaced by filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card with the USCIS. If the card will not expire for at least another six months and you fulfill all the eligibility requirements to apply for citizenship, then you can directly apply for citizenship rather than renewing your Green Card.
Lost Your Green Card?
If your green card was lost or stolen, and even if it is not expired, you have to apply for a replacement card by filing Form I-90. But in such instances, you need not to wait to receive the new card before filing for naturalization. You can file the citizenship form as soon as you get the I-797 Receipt Notice for Form I-90 that you filed.
After you submit the I-90 application with the appropriate fee and supporting documents (if any) to the USCIS, they will send you an Application Receipt Notice with a 13-character receipt number. Once you receive the Receipt Notice for the Form I-90, you can go ahead and file your N-400 application. Make sure you include a copy of the Receipt Notice with the N-400 application.
Once they receive your application with the supporting documents and fees, USCIS will take up your case for initial processing, verifying your application for completeness. After you get the Notice of Action, you can make an “Info Pass” appointment with your local USCIS office to get an I-551 stamp on your passport. This I-551 stamp can be used as a temporary proof that you are a lawful permanent resident of the US.
With this stamp, you can use it for all practical purposes that you would be able to use your “Green Card” for – employment, travel, and evidence of status. This stamp is valid for one year from the date it was issued.
Renew Your Green Card Before Travel
Re-entry into the United States from abroad: Always make sure you apply for your new green card well before you travel. During the trip, bring with you the temporary documentation you received. If you are abroad and try re-entering the US with an expired Green Card, you have to face unnecessary delay during the inspection process at the port-of-entry. So it is always safer to travel after you file the I-90 application to get a replacement of your green card.
Getting Employment: US Employers will not accept an expired green card while verifying employment authorization for new hires. In such instances, you can use other documents listed on the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification Form such as a social security card and driver’s license, or provide “temporary” evidence of status, such as an I-551 stamp, or even the receipt notice for your Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card can be handy.