What Happens if Your Green Card Expires?


If you are a permanent resident of the United States it’s important to keep your green card current. You must always have a valid green card. However, in some cases, permanent residents delay the renewal and their green card expires.

Individuals with expired green cards are required to submit the Green Card Renewal Application Form I-90 as soon as possible. A Green Card is valid for 10 years.

About two to three weeks after filing in the form with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a green card holder will receive a Notice of Action, I-797, that verifies that the renewal process is underway.

If your green card expires this is not sufficient ground to cause loss of permanent resident status. However, in the current climate when permanent residents are coming under increased scrutiny, an expired card may raise a red flag.

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What to do if your green card expires

You will not be hit with a penalty or a fine for renewing a green card late. But an expired green card can lead to other issues or concerns and can get you in trouble if you are traveling out of the country.

In certain cases, airlines will refuse to board passengers with an expired green card. However, some carriers may accept a verified I-787 notice that a renewal is being processed.

If you are re-entering the United States after travel, it is vital to present proof of your legal status. An expired green card does not constitute adequate proof of valid lawful permanent resident status.

If you are a permanent resident whose green card expires before you leave the U.S. to travel internationally and you lack sufficient time to renew, an I-551 stamp in a foreign passport verifying permanent residency can instead be used. In this case, the stamp serves as temporary proof of permanent residency. You can obtain the stamp from a local USCIS office.

In some cases, a permanent resident may realize their green card has expired when they are outside the United States. They can visit the nearest U.S. consulate to file Form I-131A, the Application for Travel Document. This documentation will allow the permanent resident to request a boarding foil or a transportation letter. The documentation will permit the permanent resident to re-enter the United States if he or she has been outside the country for less than a year.

There are scenarios other than travel in which an expired green card may cause you problems.

A valid green card can be important proof of legal status if you are renewing a driver’s license.

If you are starting a new job you will usually be asked to complete Form I-9 which verifies your legal immigration status and identity.

An expired green card will not be sufficient proof of legal status if you are buying a home. However, a mortgage lender may accept an I-551 passport stamp.

It’s worth noting that you can still apply for naturalization with an expired green card.

If your green card is expired or you are confused about renewal, you should consider talking to an experience Texas immigration lawyer for advice. Call us in Austin at  (512) 399-2311.

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