If you were born outside the United States but have become a lawful permanent U.S. resident, your green card—officially known as a permanent resident card—is an essential form of identification. It allows you to work and move freely throughout the country.
If you lose your green card, it’s a good idea to apply for a replacement as quickly as possible. To replace a green card, usually you would need to:
- Fill out an I-90 form for green card replacement or renewal
- Contact the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) via their Contact Center for support and to track your case.
Those two steps will cover your bases in most situations, but some details may alter the specifics in your case. Read on for more information.
What Happens If I Lose My Green Card?
If you lose your green card, you don’t lose your lawful permanent resident status—but you may not be able to prove your status to employers or anyone else who needs to identify you. If you are arrested without your card, you may have to pay a fine or even serve time in jail.
To be sure you don’t encounter any issues, apply to replace your green card as soon as possible.
If you need temporary proof of your residency status, you can schedule an appointment with a USCIS office and request an I-551 stamp in your passport. The stamp will generally serve as official verification for one year.
If your card is lost when you are outside the United States, you will have to file for a travel document (also called carrier documentation) at a U.S. embassy or consulate before you can fly back.
What Happens If My Green Card Is Stolen?
If your green card is stolen, follow the same steps you would for a lost card. It is especially important to contact USCIS right away by phone or on their website so your stolen card cannot be used by an identity thief.
If you suspect your green card has been stolen, you may also want to file a police report. The police probably will not be able to recover the card, but the report will serve as a record in case your card is used illegally.
How to Replace a Green Card
If you lose your green card, it is stolen, or it becomes damaged, you will be directed to fill out an I-90 form for green card replacement or renewal.
This form can be submitted online or by mail. The USCIS may also ask for supporting documents to prove your immigration status.
How Long Does It Take to Replace a Green Card?
Processing times may vary, but it can take six months or more to get a new green card.
How Much Does Green Card Replacement Cost?
As of this writing, green card replacement costs about $455 plus the cost of biometric services, which is $85. In total, a green card replacement will cost you about $540.
In cases where you never received your original card after it was issued, or if the Department of Homeland Security made an error that resulted in incorrect information on your card, you are not required to pay the fee.
Who Is Eligible for a Green Card?
According to USCIS.gov, you can become eligible to apply for a green card:
- As family of a lawful permanent resident
- Through employment
- Through refugee or asylum status
- Through Special Immigrant status
There are many other conditions that can make you eligible for a green card—for example, if you are a native or citizen of Cuba, or if you were able to obtain a diversity visa through the Department of State’s lottery process.
What Is a Green Card?
A green card, also known as an I-551, is given to immigrants who have met the criteria to become lawful permanent residents of the United States. Most green cards are valid for 10 years, after which they expire if they are not renewed.
To obtain a green card, you must apply for one.
In most cases the first step is to obtain approval of your immigrant petition, which is often filed by your sponsor. If your petition is approved, you can file form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (your green card application).
Your application is reviewed by USCIS, a government agency that handles the naturalization of immigrants into the country.
After a biometrics appointment—where workers document your fingerprints, take photos, and get your signature—and an interview, you eventually receive a decision on your petition.
If you are approved, you receive your official green card, which resembles a driver’s license. You become a lawful permanent resident and hold many of the same rights as a U.S. citizen.
What is a Conditional Permanent Resident?
A conditional permanent resident is someone who receives a green card that expires in two years. Conditional permanent residency is generally granted in the case of a marriage that is less than two years old.
Conditional permanent residents must apply to remove the conditions (for example, by proving that they are still married after two years) before they can be granted lawful permanent resident status.
What Are the Advantages of Having a Green Card?
A green card offers advantages beyond the right to live and work in the United States.
First, a green card offers a path to citizenship. Once you have had your permanent resident status for five years (or three years if you are married to a U.S. citizen), you can apply for citizenship.
With a green card, you can sponsor other members of your family for permanent residency as well.
You may be eligible for social assistance programs, including government-sponsored financial aid for education and even social security.
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