RALEIGH (January 06, 2023) – The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services recently issued policy guidance that will automatically extend the validity of Permanent Resident Cards (commonly known as “Green Cards”) for individuals who have applied for U.S. Citizenship. Applicants whose cards are expiring soon no longer have to file for a new card, which is a separate application costing hundreds of dollars. This also ameliorates the issue of delays—applicants filing for citizenship can wait in excess of 16 months for their application to be processed by the Raleigh or Charlotte USCIS field office and wait over 20 months just to get a replacement card.

“We welcome this development from USCIS which will not only alleviate some of the frustrations and harms that our clients and community members experience given the large case backlogs with USCIS, but also will help shore up resources at USCIS to hopefully begin addressing the backlogs for many different kinds of benefits, not just citizenship applications,” said Daniel Melo, a staff attorney with the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center. “We continue to advocate for changes at USCIS to address the crushing backlogs that impact so many members of our community.”

Prior to this development, applicants often had to pay additional fees to renew their green cards for short periods of time while their citizenship was pending, because, without a current card, it is difficult to prove one’s status (even though Permanent Residents have indefinite status in the US, even when the Green Card is expired). Effective December 12, 2022, citizenship applicants can now present their receipt notices together with their expired green cards as an official means of demonstrating their status. This extension is good for 24 months, during which time USCIS should be able to finish processing an individual’s citizenship application.

The NC Justice Center applauds this decision as a step in the right direction to address some of the serious delays that families face in processing their applications. Both the delays and the additional fees that were required prior to this new policy guidance were disproportionally harmful to immigrants with low incomes, so we welcome this change as a move towards greater economic security and equity for our community.