As you may know, an expired green card does not make a legal permanent resident ineligible for citizenship. If an individual is eligible for naturalization, an expired green card will have no effect on the naturalization application. However, INA section 264 (uscis.gov/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-29/0-0-0-8289.html) does require legal permanent residents to carry a valid green card with them at all times because it serves as proof of their permanent resident status. Despite this requirement, a green card is only proof of LPR status; an expired green card does not constitute expired status. Nonetheless, applicants sometimes need proof of their permanent resident status if, during the process of their naturalization application, they intend to travel outside of the U.S. or apply for a job, mortgage, or public benefit. If the applicant’s green card is expired, this becomes an issue.
Unfortunately, the options available to applicants in this situation are limited. The USCIS Boston Field Office has a policy of only providing I-551 stamps (temporary evidence of permanent resident status) to applicants who have an active I-90 (green card) application, or who have an active N-400 application, but whose green card will not expire within the next 6 months. If you have a client who is eligible for a fee waiver, you can suggest that he or she also complete an I-90 application. However, because I-90 applications can take just as long, or longer, to adjudicate than N-400 applications, we generally suggest that N-400 applicants with expired green cards sit tight and do not travel internationally during the pendency of their N-400 application. We have occasionally written letters on behalf of clients representing that the applicant is a legal permanent resident who is applying for citizenship with us, but these letters certainly would not be sufficient for travel, and do not seem to be very helpful for employment or other benefits, either.