When your application for permanent residency is approved, USCIS will mail you a welcome notice within 30 days. After you receive the welcome notice, you should receive your Green Card in the mail sometime in the next 30 days. Altogether, that means you should receive your Green Card within 60 days of your approval for permanent resident status.

If you do not receive your welcome notice or Green Card within this time frame, or if there is an error with either item when they arrive, you should reach out to the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283. You should also call the USCIS Contact Center if you have moved since your case was approved, as your welcome notice and Green Card may have been mailed to the wrong address.

You cannot receive your Green Card until you have paid all of the required fees. For most applicants who apply for an adjustment of status while in the United States, this includes the fees for Form I-485, which can range from $750 – $1,225 depending on age, filing status, and any necessary biometric services fees. If you haven’t received your Green Card in a timely manner, this could be a contributing factor to the delay. 

The Green Card Welcome Notice

At 107 pages, the Green Card welcome notice—Welcome to the United States, A Guide for New Immigrants—is more of a welcome packet than a simple notice. It is intended to serve as a comprehensive guide for newly minted permanent residents and includes a wide variety of useful topics and instructions. Following is a brief overview of what you’ll find in your welcome notice:

  • A list of Federal Government departments and agencies with contact information
  • A list of Federal holidays
  • Your rights and responsibilities as a permanent resident
  • How to properly maintain your permanent resident status 
  • Important information for conditional permanent residents
  • How and where to seek legal assistance
  • Consequences of criminal behavior for permanent residents
  • How to obtain a Social Security number
  • Finding a place to live in the United States
  • Finding a job in the United States
  • Finding child care in the United States
  • How to obtain a Driver’s License
  • How to open bank and credit card accounts with banks and financial institutions
  • How to pay income taxes
  • How to protect yourself and your personal finances
  • An overview of education in the United States (this is especially useful for children of Green Card parents)
  • An overview of healthcare in the United States
  • An overview of government assistance programs
  • An overview of safety and emergency services in the United States (police, fire, poison control, natural disasters, etc.)
  • An overview of US history and civics
  • How to become a naturalized US citizen

It is strongly recommended that new permanent residents hold on to their green card welcome notice. This information can be immensely helpful in answering questions about your status and should be stored in a place where it can be reviewed frequently.

Receiving your Green Card in the Mail

All permanent residents are issued a Green Card (Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card) as proof of their legal status in the United States. Don’t be alarmed if your Green Card isn’t green when you get it in the mail—the nickname comes from older cards that were actually green. The new cards look more like a standard Driver’s License, with a white or off-white color.

Most Green Cards are valid for 10 years, so you will need to either renew it or apply for naturalization before it expires. Conditional permanent residents are typically issued a two-year Green Card, and the holder will need to apply for removal of conditions before the card expires.

What is the Purpose of a Green Card?

A Green Card validates an immigrant’s authorization to live and work in the United States without restrictions. If you travel outside of the United States, you can use your Green Card to re-enter the country. However, if you leave the country for more than 12 months, you’ll need to furnish additional documentation to prove that you haven’t abandoned your residency in the United States.

Permanent residents who are 18 and older are required by law to carry proof of immigration status at all times. If an immigration official or law enforcement officer asks to see your proof of status, you have an obligation to provide them with your Green Card. 

How to Replace or Renew a Green Card

If you lose your Green Card or need to renew it after 10 years, you can file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. There is a standard filing fee of $455 and a biometric services fee of $85, though this requirement is waived for permanent residents who never received a Green Card, and for permanent residents whose initial Green Card contains incorrect information. 

For permanent residents who never received a Green Card in the mail, USCIS will only waive the Form I-90 filing fee if the following conditions are met:

  1. USCIS mailed the card more than 30 days ago
  2. The envelope was returned as undeliverable
  3. You have not moved from the address that you provided to USCIS. 

Assuming these requirements are met, you will need to submit Form I-90 along with a copy of Form I-797, Notice of Action, for the form that USCIS approved to grant your Green Card, along with a copy of a government-issued ID that contains your name, date of birth, photograph, and signature. 

If the Green Card that you receive in the mail contains incorrect information, you will need to send the incorrect Green Card back to USCIS with Form I-90, along with evidence to document the biographical information that is incorrect (e.g. your name, date of birth, etc.). In order for USCIS to waive the standard filing fee for Form I-90, you’ll also need to show that the error was due to a mistake by USCIS, not you. 

What to Do If Your Green Card is Denied

When a case is denied or suspended due to a removal order, you will receive a notice from USCIS with an explanation for the unfavorable decision. The notice should also include information on how to appeal the unfavorable decision, including options to file a motion to reopen or reconsider your case (though it’s important to note that administrative appeals are only available in certain types of cases). 

If you receive a Denial Notice or a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), you should consult with an immigration attorney as soon as possible. You will have a limited time frame to file a motion to reopen or reconsider the case, and given the unfavorable decision, you will need the assistance of an experienced attorney to change the adjudicator’s decision. 

Receive Help Applying for a Green Card in Arizona

The United States immigration system is extremely complex and can take years to navigate, if done incorrectly. However, with the help of an experienced immigration attorney, even the most complicated immigration issue can be solved.

JakcsonWhite is an Arizona based law firm, with a dedicated immigration team lead by attorney Pace Rawlins. Pace and his team are devoted to helping Arizona families with their immigration needs.

Whether you have just been issued a denial notice or at the very beginning of your green card application process, we can help.

Call our Immigration team at (480) 626-2388 to discuss your case today.

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