US permanent residents are free to travel and return to the United States up until the expiration date on their Green Card. Whether your Green Card expires in 6 months or 6 days, you shouldn’t have any issues re-entering the United States as long as you haven’t done anything that would make you inadmissible (e.g. committing certain crimes or violating the terms of your immigration status).
Renewing a Green Card
A US permanent resident can apply to renew their Green Card anytime in the 6 months before their Green Card expires, or at any point after the Green Card expires. That said, it’s obviously much better to renew your Green Card before it expires, as an expired Green Card can lead to serious problems for a permanent resident.
You can apply to renew your Green Card with Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. USCIS accepts renewal applications online (E-filing) or by mail at the Phoenix field office. If you choose to E-file, you can pay the $455 filing fee and $85 biometric services fee online. If you mail a paper application, you’ll need to include payment via personal check, cashier’s check, money order, or Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.
In most cases, you’ll need to attach a photocopy of your Green Card (both sides) to your renewal application. If your Green Card was lost, stolen, mutilated, or destroyed, then you’ll need to include a copy of a government-issued ID with your name, date of birth, photograph, and signature.
How long does it take to renew a Green Card?
Generally speaking, it takes USCIS 4.5 – 7.5 months to process Form I-90. As such, it’s highly recommended that you file for renewal 5 – 6 months before your Green Card expires; to ensure your Green Card doesn’t expire while the application is under review. An expired Green Card shouldn’t have any effect on your renewal application, but it can present some logistical challenges with travel, employment, professional licenses, buying a house, and renewing your driver’s license.
Renewing a Conditional Green Card
Conditional Permanent Residents are typically issued a two-year Green Card instead of the standard 10-year Green Card. Before a Conditional Green Card expires, the holder will need to apply to have the conditions removed with Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. Alternately, some Conditional Permanent Residents may file Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Residence Status.
Unlike Form I-90, there are no E-filing options for Form I-751 or Form I-829. The petition must be filed by mail, along with a form of payment. Form I-751 carries a $595 filing fee and $85 biometric services fee, while Form I-829 carries a significantly larger filing fee of $3,750 with a standard biometric services fee of $85. The same methods of payment are available for both forms—personal check, cashier’s check, money order, or a credit card transaction authorization with Form G-1450.
Processing times for Form I-751 can vary significantly. If your petition is handled by a USCIS service center, it could take anywhere from 13.5 – 22.5 months based on current estimates. If the petition is handled by a USCIS field office, the wait is even longer with estimated processing times of 22.5 – 43.5 months. The processing time for Form I-829 is generally 29.5 – 38.5 months.
Regardless of whether you file Form I-751 or Form I-829, properly filing the renewal petition before your Green Card expires will automatically extend the expiration date of your Green Card to allow sufficient processing time. In most cases, the initial extension is for one year, with additional extensions applied based on the expected processing time.
Outside the United States When Your Green Card Expires
Generally speaking, a US permanent resident must be in the United States to apply for a Green Card renewal. In rare cases where you are outside of the United States when your Green Card expires, you should contact the nearest US Embassy, consulate, USCIS office, or US Port of Entry before attempting to return to a US Port of Entry or apply for a renewal.
Depending on your method of travel to the US Port of Entry, you may need to request a travel document with Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation), as carriers require documentation to transport you to the United States. However,
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policy permits transportation aboard a carrier bound for the United States without standard documentation in the following circumstances:
- You are a US permanent resident with an expired Green Card that was issued with a 10-year expiration date, and you have been traveling outside of the United States for less than a year
- You are a US permanent resident with an expired Green Card with a two-year expiration date, and you have Form I-797, Notice of Action, to prove that you filed Form I-751 or Form I-829, and you have been traveling outside of the United States for less than a year
- You are a US permanent resident with the US Armed Forces or an employee of the US government on official military or government travel orders
That said, even though CBP policy permits travel with an expired Green Card in some situations, the airline or transportation carrier may still refuse to let you board. In such situations, you would need to file Form I-131A.
Once you have successfully traveled to a US Port of Entry, you will need to be inspected and admitted into the United States by a CBP officer. As long as you spoke with the proper authorities beforehand and have followed their instructions to the letter, you shouldn’t have an issue (though you will need to be processed at a Secondary Inspection Booth and can expect a longer wait).
Other Issues That May Arise With an Expired Green Card
Getting stranded outside of the United States is only one of the challenges that can arise from an expired Green Card. In addition to travel complications, an expired Green Card can make you ineligible to renew your driver’s license and professional licenses. On the note of employment, an expired Green Card will also leave you ineligible to start a new job, as your I-9 form will be rejected without a valid Green Card.
An expired Green Card can also make you ineligible to process a home mortgage. If you are currently in the midst of buying a home and your Green Card expires within 6 months, you should diligently seek to renew your Green Card to avoid complications when it comes to closing on the mortgage loan.
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