The golden rule of U.S. immigration is "maintain your status" (or, in the case of permanent residents, "maintain evidence of your immigration status").
An immigrant's permanent resident card ("green card" or Form I-551) does not grant them permanent resident status. Rather, it merely acts as evidence of their permanent resident status.
Consequently, most often, there are no dire immigration consequences for possessing an expired green card.
Unfortunately, this does not apply to conditional residents, who MUST timely file I-751 petitions to renew their green cards or risk being placed in removal proceedings.
While many Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) with expired green cards are not in immediate danger of removal, they may nevertheless encounter numerous inconveniences by not filing timely applications to renew their green cards.
These include, but are not limited to instances when the LPR encounters difficulty in specific situations, namely:
During international travel;
Assuming new employment;
Accessing mortgages; and
Renewing a driver's license.
Although it can be disappointing to have to dole out hundreds of dollars on a green card renewal application, it is a worthy investment.
Find out more below.
An expired green card is not valid for re-entry to the United States after travel abroad. Airlines may refuse to board an LPR passenger who does not possess a valid travel document. If the passenger makes it to a port of entry in the U.S., he/she will be at the mercy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and may be subject to significant delays or re-entry fees.
If LPRs lose their green cards while abroad, they may opt to file form I-131, Application for Travel Document, with the nearest U.S. embassy/consulate.
The U.S. post will place a boarding foil in the respective LPR's passport or issue a letter that authorizes return travel to the U.S.
It is vital to review post-specific document requirements in advance as some posts require a police report for stolen green cards.
If an LPR wishes to travel, but has an expired green card, he/she may schedule an Info-pass appointment at a USCIS field office to obtain an I-551/ADIT stamp in his/her passport.
These stamps may be valid for six months to one year from the date of issuance. If the passport is near expiration, the ADIT stamp will likely be given a validity date matching the passport's expiration.
LPRs who have filed a green card renewal application/ a petition to remove the conditions on their residence, may use their application receipt notices in conjunction with their expired green cards when traveling.
Employers are required to prepare a Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification for all new employees. This form demonstrates an individual's eligibility to work in the U.S. When completing this form, lawful permanent residents must present a valid green card.
LPRs may forego exciting employment opportunities if their green cards have expired or they do not possess alternative, valid proof of LPR status. Such evidence may include an I-551/ ADIT stamp in their passports, or a green card renewal/ removal of conditions receipt notice.
It may take several months/weeks to obtain such proof, and many employers will not wait for new hires to gather their documents. Consequently, it is best to renew your green card proactively.
Many mortgage lenders require that LPR loan applicants possess an unexpired green card.
As it can take several months to receive a replacement green card after submitting a renewal application, LPRs may forgo the opportunity to purchase a property.
Duels with the DMV
In many states, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will not renew an LPR's driver's license without proof of permanent resident status. Consequently, LPRs may find that they have lost their driving privileges.
Some DMV offices are more stringent than others, demanding original receipt notices for patrons awaiting the issuance of their replacement green cards. On one occasion, a DMV officer cited this reason for reducing the validity period of a renewed license.
How To Renew A Green Card
LPRs with ten-year green cards can file form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, within six months of the expiration date on their green cards. USCIS will not process applications submitted before this window.
They may file this form online via my.USCIS or submit a paper application to USCIS.
An LPR may use the receipt notice for his/her I-90 as proof of lawful permanent resident status. This receipt notice provides valid evidence of LPR status for the twelve months following the expiration date on the green card.
Historically, LPRs could visit an Application Support Center to obtain a sticker evidencing valid LPR status.
Fee waivers are available for applicants who are near the federal poverty line. Waiver applicants must submit evidence of their income, for example, their tax returns.
Conditional residents (those with a two-year green card) can obtain a ten-year green card by filing form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. They must file during the 90 day period preceding the expiration of their green cards.
LPRs may use the receipt notice for their I-751 as proof of their LPR status. This receipt notice extends conditional resident status for eighteen months past the expiration date on the green card.
Include the Right Address!
USCIS will not send a green card to a foreign address. Consequently, applicants must list a valid U.S. mailing address on their green card renewal applications.
Additionally, all immigration applicants must notify USCIS upon changing their residential addresses so that USCIS can forward all correspondence and employment/travel cards to the correct address. This is achieved by filing an AR-11, Alien's Change of Address Card online.
The Revocation of Permanent Resident Status
A lawful permanent resident may lose his/her permanent resident status under the following circumstances:
The immigrant becomes a citizen;
The immigrant opts to abandon his/her LPR status (by filing form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status); or
The U.S. Government revokes the immigrant's LPR status by issuing a final order of removal.
If you would like to discuss an issue with your green card or any other immigration matter, please contact us here.
We assist countless foreign nationals and we will be happy to personally assist you with your application as well. Send us an E-mail or call us at (888)354-6257. For reasons on why you should consult an immigration attorney whenever you have an immigration issue, see our page titled: Reasons Why it is Vital to Use an Immigration Lawyer.
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