Should I renew my Green Card or apply for citizenship

Getting a Green Card lets you enjoy a lot of benefits in the USA and allows you to live with peace of mind for a relatively long period.

However, when it comes to the time when the Green Card is about to expire (you should always keep this date in mind) sometimes we can aim for something better. Perhaps we are ready to get our citizenship or maybe, we need to remain permanent residents for a while more.

To determine what’s best for us there are a few things we must check first, we’ll guide you through some information you’ll need review.

The benefits of both scenarios

Both, being an legal permanent resident and a U.S Citizen are great achievements for people who immigrated to the United States. However. there are some differences to the benefits they provide.

Your life as a Green Card holder

The Green Card is usually the first step in the path to becoming an American citizen, and although it makes you a legal immigrant, you still have to follow some rules such as a limited time of stay outside of the country.

You also have to notify USCIS every time you change your address or are involved in certain crimes or other activities. And you don’t yet have a voice in the politics of the USA as you can’t vote.

However, going for the naturalization process is not a possibility for everyone, some people might find it is best to wait for a little while in order to get a better chance when filing for a residency.

After all, with a Green Card, you can live and work in the USA on a permanent basis, you can still travel and visit your family outside the US and you may petition other family members so they can immigrate and receive a Green Card too. You can go visit our Green Card application guide to know more about this.

Benefits of being an American citizen

On the other hand, when you go through the Naturalization process you can enjoy all of the benefits any other person born in the USA has.

Perhaps the most important benefit of being a citizen is that under no circumstances can you get deported from the country. The only possible way that could happen is if you committed fraud when going through the process of naturalization.

You also get the right to participate in political activities and vote, and you can petition more family members than those who only have a Green Card.

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When to renew your Green Card

First of all, although we often call it Green Card, the permanent resident card can actually have different conditions for some people, as some are given a “conditional resident card” which is only valid for two years and the process they have to follow is to replace with a permanent resident card or to remove conditions.

If you already have a permanent resident card and it is about to expire (in 6 months), then you should start your renewal process right away.

Other circumstances in which you should renew your permanent resident card include any situation in which it has been stolen, mutilated or your personal information has changed. The way to do this is through Form I-90, which you can find online, or can fill with the help of experts.

Check your eligibility for Form I-90 

Find out if I'm ready to start the process

When to go for the naturalization process

If you didn’t have any problems with the law or and officer during the time you had your Green card, and you can prove the following, you may apply for a naturalization process:

  • You’ve had a continuous permanent residence in the US for the past 5 years
  • You’ve been physically present in the US for the past 30 months.
  • You’ve lived for at least 3 months in the state where you’re applying.

Take a free test to see if you're eligible for naturalization

Find out if I'm ready to start the process

Another thing you should have in mind when applying for naturalization is that you will be asked to take a test and pass it in order to become a citizen, take the following into account:

  • You should be able to read and write in English.
  • You should have basic knowledge on US history and its constitution.
  • You should have a basic understanding of the history and government of the United States.

Although this test is appointed after you file your N-400 form (application for naturalization), you should start preparing yourself as soon as you decide to go for the process.

How do I decide what’s best for me

Keep in mind that even though the naturalization process is more expensive than the renewal, in the long run, it may save you a lot of money.

Weight in your possibilities with each of these processes and how it could benefit you and your family. Remember you can always check your eligibility for them and you can have professional assistance to guide you through them.

Most of all, try to keep it real and think about the chances you have on the naturalization test, perhaps your English is still a bit rough, or maybe, you have some doubts regarding your criminal record and would like to ask an attorney about it.

There are several ways in which you can get an assessment, but a lot of online services let you have an eligibility check before starting your process to make sure you can go through with it. Some even let you meet with a lawyer through a video call to solve your questions.

You can start by taking this short survey to find out if you’re ready and start looking for the best options to file your forms. Best of luck!

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