When I Apply to Naturalize Are there Any Risks to My Green Card?
As part of the process of applying to become a U.S. citizen, USCIS will conduct a full background check and will investigate how you became a U.S. permanent resident. Therefore if there are any possible issues regarding how you received your green card, you should be aware that during the naturalization process USCIS could not only deny your application to become a U.S. citizen but could also initiate removal proceedings against you. With such significant risks to consider, you should double-check that the foundation for your original green card is solid.
You should expect that the USCIS officer adjudicating your case will look at the legal basis for your green card to ensure it is still valid. Here are some common scenarios where inviting USCIS to scrutinize your immigration history through the naturalization process could sadly result in being put in removal proceedings.
If you as a permanent resident had one or more extensive, lengthy absences from the U.S., this could mean that you have already abandoned your U.S. permanent residence and your green card was invalidated at that point. For example, if you spend more than six months outside the U.S., this raises the presumption that you no longer have maintained continuous residence in the U.S. and you must show USCIS (or a CBP officer at the border) that you did not give up your green card because you kept sufficient ties and connections to the U.S. If you spend more than a year outside the U.S., with some rare exceptions, you will have automatically abandoned your permanent resident status.
If you apply to naturalize with a long absence from the U.S., USCIS not only will deny your application for failing to maintain permanent residence, but they could also issue you a “Notice to Appear” in immigration court to defend your green card and ability to stay within the U.S.
In addition, if you apply to naturalize and USCIS uncovers that you were not eligible for the original green card, this could also result in being placed in removal proceedings. An example of this scary situation is where you received your green card on the basis of your marriage to a U.S. citizen. If it turns out that the divorce decree from your first marriage was not finalized correctly, you may have still been legally married and were unable to lawfully marry your current spouse. This results in the messy situation of you having to get married again and become a permanent resident again because your current green card and U.S. immigration status is not valid.