Since late 1989, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has issued “green cards” or I-551 Alien Registration receipt Cards which expire after 10 years, listing an expiration date on the card. In addition, persons who obtained legal permanent residency prior to 1989, but have lost their cards may now have replacement cards subject to expiration. Persons who have such cards may apply for a replacement up to six months in advance of the expiration date of the card.
Currently, it is not clear whether the INS will require FBI background clearance checks in connection with the application for renewal. If one has any criminal history or record of arrest, it is extremely important to seek the advice of an experienced immigration counsel prior to engaging in the renewal process for a green card.
In addition, for those persons who have spent significant periods of time outside of the United States, a consultation with an experienced attorney is advisable with regard to potential determinations of abandonment of permanent residence by the Immigration Service.
All of these issues that arise in the green card renewals process illustrate how important it is for legal permanent residents to seek naturalization once they have been present in the United States for the statutory residency period. If you have been a legal permanent resident in the United States for more than five years and have been present in the United States for more than half of that time, the time is now to seriously consider applying for naturalization and becoming a United States citizen.