Should I renew my Green Card of apply for Naturalization?

The cost difference is only $185 - what is the right decision for you?

One of the most common questions that I receive is whether a person should renew their green card or file for citizenship. Unless there are unfavorable facts in the individual’s past (for example: they have criminal convictions or have previously used fraudulent documents to receive their green card, or have been outside of the country too long), I almost always recommend that the individual file a naturalization application for citizenship. Why? Cost and certainty. So many people end up needing immigration attorneys because they make an unfortunate choice after many years of residency and find themselves in removal proceedings. And the hardest part as a practitioner is knowing that they could have avoided the situation if they had only filed for naturalization years before - usually when their parents or siblings filed.

What are the requirements for naturalization?

  1. Have permanent residency for five (5) years, or three (3) years if you are married to a United States citizen.

  2. Lived in the United States for at least half of the residency period above.

  3. Be 18 years or older.

  4. Be able to read, write, and speak basic English.

  5. Be a person of good moral character.

Many people are scared to file their naturalization applications. Some of these fears stem from fear of the current administration. Some of the fears stem from the idea that they do not want to abandon where they come from. Some stem from the cost of naturalization. What I always ask my clients is: do you want to stay here? And if the answer is yes, then I encourage them to file for naturalization.

Filing Fees:

I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card is $540 ($455 for the application, $85 for the biometrics fee)

N-400, Application for Naturalization is $725 ($640 for the application fee, $85.00 for the biometrics fee)

The difference between the two - $185.

For $185 you get the following:

  • Citizenship from the United States.

  • The right to have a voice and vote in federal and state elections(or run for office)!

  • The right to never pay USCIS another filing fee.

  • Certainty. The right to never be scared that if you commit a crime, you may be deported. Many people do not realize that this can include simple things like traffic violations, driving without a license, or driving under the influence.

  • The right to petition for your family members as a United States citizen and reduce their wait times for their visas.

Bottom line: If you meet the eligibility requirements listed above, I urge you to consider applying for naturalization. Even if you do not hire an immigration attorney to help you, get a consultation to see if you are eligible and file on your own. Get the certainty and peace of mind that you will never be separated from your loved ones.

***I can’t afford to naturalize!***

Many times I will have people come to me and tell me that they want to naturalize, but cannot afford the application fees. If this is your situation, you may be eligible to file an I-912, Request for Fee Waiver Form to waive these filing fees. Do not let finances be the reason you do not file. Because if something happens later down the line and you need other relief, I promise you that will end up paying so much more than the naturalization application fee. I do not say this to scare anyone, but to urge you strongly to take advantage of your ability to file for naturalization as soon as you are eligible, so that you never have to face removal from this country and separation from your family.