Q. Can my friend naturalize despite having lost her green card? I’m a volunteer for CUNY Citizenship Now! One of my friends lost her wallet containing her permanent resident card. She came to the United States as a little girl. She’s now in her forties. She knows her alien number. Can she become a U.S. citizen without replacing her lost card?

August 19, 2011 | Legal Permanent Residents (LPR), Naturalization

A.  Your friend can naturalize without getting a new permanent resident card. Applying for U.S. citizenship will save her time and money.

Some people are confused about this issue. That’s because if you ask USCIS if you must get a new green card when you lose one, the agency representatives say “yes.” The reason for their answer is that the law requires a permanent resident to always have a valid, unexpired card as evidence of their immigration status. However, if you ask USCIS if you can naturalize without replacing a lost or expired card, the answer is again “yes.” USCIS will not penalize your friend for not getting a new card. The agency is clear that having a valid, unexpired card is not a condition for getting U.S. citizenship.

When submitting her application, your friend can just provide her alien number and USCIS should be able to retrieve her case history. Remember that in order for your friend to apply for naturalization, she must have resided continuously in the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident for the last five years, immediately prior to applying for naturalization, unless she has been married to and living with a U.S. citizen for the last three years and the spouse has been a citizen for the past three years).

At her naturalization interview, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services examiner will want to see proof of how, and when your friend became a permanent resident.  This may include a copy of her green card approval.  Also, I would advise your friend to report the loss of her green card to the police so that she can document the loss.