US Green Card Renewal & Replacement
If you have been granted a green card in the United States, ensuring it remains valid is essential to being able to prove your lawful permanent residence status. If you fail to renew your green card prior to its expiry, this could result in many unwanted problems.
In this guide to the US green card renewal process, we explain the rules on when you will need to renew your green card and the process to do this. We also look at how replace your green card if it requires updating or is lost, damaged or stolen.
When to renew your green card
Your green card, also known as a Permanent Resident Card (PRC) or Form I-551, is proof of permanent residence status in the United States. This also serves as a valid identification document, including documentary proof that you are eligible to live and work in the US.
However, most green cards will only be valid for 10 years. You should renew your PRC if you were issued a green card that has either expired or will expire in the next 6 months.
It is important to keep your green card up-to-date where, without a valid PRC, it may be difficult for you to show that you are a permanent resident in the United States. This could also affect your ability to travel overseas or to prove your eligibility to work in the US.
As a green card holder, it is your responsibility to keep your card in date. As a permanent resident aged 18 or over, you are also required to have a valid green card in your possession at all times, and to show this to immigration or law enforcement officers on request.
How to check your green card renewal status
Some green cards contain no expiration date, although most are valid for 10 years, where the expiration date can be found on the front of your card. If your card does not have any expiration date, this is because you will most likely be in possession of a very old version. Most old versions are no longer valid and should be renewed as soon as possible.
Green card renewal requirements
The green card renewal requirements refer to where your PRC has already expired or is shortly due to expire. However, there are also a number of circumstances in which you should replace your green card, even if it has not yet expired or is soon due to run out. For example, you should apply to replace your green card if any of the information on your card needs to be changed, such as where you have legally changed your name or any other biographic information on your card, or where your card has been lost, stolen or damaged.
Green card renewal application process
To apply to either renew or replace your green card, you must file Form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card) with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
You may begin the green card renewal or replacement application process by filing Form I-90 online or by mail. You must create a USCIS online account to file your form online, although having an online account will facilitate a much easier renewal application process. This can include being able to pay your Form I-90 filing fee online, easily checking the status of your case, receiving notifications and case updates, viewing personalized case completion date estimates, responding to requests from USCIS for evidence, as well as managing your contact information, including updating your US mailing address.
As part of the green card renewal or replacement process, you may be asked to attend an appointment to submit your biometric information. In these cases, you will be sent a biometrics appointment notice stating the time and place of your appointment.
Importantly, if you are currently outside the US and your green card is due to expire within 6 months, but where you will return within a year of your departure and before your PRC expires, you should file Form I-90 as soon as you return to the United States.
Green card renewal fee
The cost to apply for a green card renewal using Form I-90 is $455, unless you are eligible for a fee waiver. However, you cannot file Form I-90 online if applying for a fee waiver.
A biometric services fee of $85 may also be required, so $540 in total.
How long does a green card renewal take?
After attending your biometrics appointment, USCIS will process your application to renew or replace your green card. If USCIS approves your application, they will mail a new green card to your US mailing address. In many cases, this could take several months, if not more than a year for your Form I-90 application to be fully adjudicated and processed.
What happens if your green card expires pending renewal?
If you are applying to renew your green card, your notice of receipt from USCIS for Form I-90 can be used with your expired green card as evidence of lawful permanent resident status until a decision has been made and you have been sent an updated PRC in the post.
As from September 2022, USCIS has automatically extended the validity of PRCs to 24 months for lawful permanent residents who file Form I-90 but are pending a decision. To this effect, the I-90 notice received from USCIS will now expressly state that your notice and expired green card will together provide valid evidence of your lawful permanent resident status for a period of 2 years from the card’s expiration date. This means that you remain authorised to work, where the notice and expired card combined can be used as work authorisation. The two documents can also be used to travel in and out of the US.
Prior to this relaxation of the rules, Form I-90 receipt notices had provided applicants with a 12-month extension of the validity of their green card. The 2-year extension is expected to help those experiencing longer processing times, where they will receive extended proof of lawful permanent resident status as they await their renewed PRC.
If you no longer have your green card, for example, where this has been lost or destroyed, and you need evidence of your lawful status while waiting to receive your replacement PRC, you can ask for an appointment at a USCIS Field Office by getting in touch with the USCIS Contact Center. In these instances, USCIS may issue you an Alien Documentation, Identification and Telecommunications (ADIT) stamp after filing Form I-90.
Failing to renew your green card
Having been granted a green card, you will maintain lawful permanent resident status until either you apply to naturalize as a US citizen, or if you lose or are classed by USCIS as having abandoned your status. Expiry of your green card does not equate to loss or abandonment of your lawful status, but this can cause a number of problems when it comes to proving your right to live and work in the US, including when returning from abroad.
If you are caught in possession of an expired green card, or an old-style green card with no expiration date, you could also be prosecuted for a misdemeanour. Having a criminal record can, of itself, jeopardize your lawful status and impact your right to apply for citizenship.
Do you need a valid green card for international travel?
If seeking to re-enter the United States after travelling abroad, you will need to present a valid and unexpired green card. If you present at a US border in circumstances where your PRC has expired, you risk being denied entry. Importantly, being absent from the US for prolonged periods also runs the risk of losing your lawful permanent residence status.
Lawful permanent residence normally permits a green card holder to travel freely in and out of the US, although there are some limitations when it comes to how long. Lengthy absences, especially if you take up residence or undertake work overseas can lead to you being treated as having involuntarily abandoned your rights as a US permanent resident.
As a permanent resident, you should not be outside the US for more than a year, unless you have applied for a re-entry permit prior to departing using Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document). A re-entry permit is valid for up to 2 years and although this does not guarantee entry into the US, as you must first be classed as admissible by border officials, it will help to demonstrate that your overseas trip was only ever intended to be temporary.
In some cases, being outside the US for less than a year can again cause problems with re-admission, where you will be subject to a full immigration inspection any time you have been abroad for at least 181 days. This means that abandonment may be found to occur in relatively short trips, if there is evidence that you did not intend to make the US your home.
It is also worth remembering that absences from the US of 6 months or more may disrupt the continuous residency required for naturalization as a US citizen. If your absence is one year or longer because you will be working overseas, and you would like to preserve your continuous residency in the United States for naturalization purposes, you may be able to file Form N-470 (Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes). However, you will need to be engaging in “qualifying employment”.
Importantly, if you remain outside of the United States for a period of more than 2 years, any re-entry permit granted before your departure will have expired. In these cases, it is advisable to apply for a returning resident visa at a US Embassy or Consulate.
Can you renew your green card as a conditional permanent resident?
If you are a conditional permanent resident in the US, either through marriage or a qualifying investment, your green card will only be valid for a period of 2 years. In these circumstances, you cannot apply to renew your green card but must instead petition to USCIS for the removal of your conditions prior to expiry of your conditional status.
To have the conditions of your green card removed, you will need to file a petition using either Form I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence) or Form I-829 (Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status), depending in the basis of your current status. You must file your petition to remove your permanent residence conditions 90 days before your green card expires or you will lose your residence rights.
There is a useful online filing calculator on the USCIS website to determine your 90-day filing date. However, if you file your Form I-751 or Form I-829 petition correctly and in time, as from January 2023 USCIS have extended the validity of green cards for conditional permanent residents for 48 months beyond the card’s expiration date. As with the extension for Form I-90, this is to accommodate increased processing times for Forms I-751 and I-829.
For applicants who filed their petitions prior to January 2023, USCIS will issue fresh receipt notices to eligible conditional permanent residents who have previously received notices with an extension less than 48 months and whose petitions are still pending. These notices can be used with an expired green card as evidence of continued lawful status, where they will remain authorized to work and travel while waiting for a decision.
Green card renewal FAQs
How long does it take to renew a green card?
It can take several months, if not longer, for your green card renewal application to be processed. However, your Form I-90 receipt notice from USCIS, together with your expired green card, can be used as evidence of lawful status.
How long after expiration can you renew green card?
If your green card has already expired, you should apply to renew as soon as possible. An expired card will not affect your lawful residence status, but it can cause you problems with work in the US or international travel.
What happens when green card expires?
When your green card expires, you will need to renew this. It could take several months to get a new card, but you can use your receipt notice and expired card as evidence of your lawful status in the interim.
What happens if my green card expired 10 years ago?
If your green card expired 10 years ago, you should apply for a new card. If you do not have a valid card on your possession if asked by law enforcement officers, you could be prosecuted for a misdemeanour.
How much green card renewal?
The cost to apply for a green card renewal using Form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card) is $455. A biometric services fee of $85 may also be required, so a total of $540.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.