Processing times can vary from case to case, but it generally takes USCIS 4 – 9 months to process a green card renewal application. On average, most applicants receive their green cards within 7 months of filing. During that time, you should receive a one-year extension so that your current green card doesn’t expire. When USCIS approves your application, you should receive the green card in the mail within 30 days.
What to do if You Did Not Receive Your Green Card in the Mail
There are a number of factors that can lead to an improperly mailed green card. The most common problem is when the applicant moves without providing USCIS with their new mailing address. There could also be a processing error that printed the wrong address on the envelope, or outright failed to mail the card in the first place. Cases of stolen mail and identity theft are rare, but they are unfortunately a real possibility if you discover there was no error on your part or by USCIS.
The first step you should take is to check your case status online. In the ideal scenario, your card is still being processed and hasn’t actually been mailed yet. In this case, you’ll just need to wait for your case to be approved. If your case is taking an unusually long time to process (9 months or longer), you can submit a case inquiry to see what’s holding it up.
If it has been 45 days or longer since your application was approved, the first step is to call the USCIS Contact Center. Hopefully there was a simple processing error on their side, and the agent can rectify the issue and get your new card in the mail ASAP. If the Contact Center agent can’t resolve the issue, you’ll need to schedule an INFOPASS appointment with the local USCIS field office. You can schedule an INFOPASS appointment online, and they usually book these about two weeks in advance. When you meet with a representative in the field office, they should be able to discover what went wrong in mailing your new green card and advise you on what needs to be done to re-issue a new card.
Replacing a Missing Green Card
In some cases, USCIS may be able to issue a new green card automatically. This is often the case when there was a processing error by USCIS that sent the green card to the wrong address, or resulted in a failure to deliver the card to a mail carrier. If so, the agency should issue a new card within 30 days for no charge.
However, if the card didn’t arrive by mail due to your error (incorrect information, you moved without updating the mailing address, etc.), or if your card was lost or stolen in the mail, you may need to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. This is the same form that you used to renew your green card.
The good news is that processing a replacement card after your renewal application has been approved should be much faster. Rather than waiting 7 – 9 months, your case may be approved in as little as 4 months. Also, if your green card extension is set to expire while this new petition is being processed, USCIS will issue another extension to ensure you’re not stuck with an expired green card.
The bad news is that having to file Form I-90 again means you may have to pay the standard filing fee of $455 (which you probably already paid when you renewed your green card). There are only two exceptions to the filing fee requirement, and both of them involve a mistake by USCIS. If you moved without providing USCIS an updated address, or if your card was simply lost or stolen in the mail, you’ll have to pay the filing fee again. Of course, if you qualify for an exemption from USCIS fees (e.g. due to economic distress), you can file Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, and ask that the fees be waived.
The two circumstances that qualify for an automatic fee waiver with Form I-90 are when USCIS mails the card to the wrong address, and when USCIS prints a card with incorrect information. In the former situation, USCIS will waive the green card replacement fee under three conditions:
- USCIS mailed your green card over 30 days ago
- The green card was returned as undelivered
- You have not moved from the address that you provided USCIS
In the latter scenario, you’ll need to prove that the incorrect information on your new green card is due to a mistake by USCIS. To do that, USCIS will need to reference your green card renewal application, and you’ll need to mail in proof that you provided USCIS with the correct biographical information (e.g. a copy of your birth certificate, passport, or other certified records).
What to do if Your Green Card Renewal Application is Denied
In some cases, the reason you haven’t received your green card in the mail is because your renewal application has been denied. If that’s the case, you should receive a Notice of Action from USCIS that explains why your application was denied and how you can appeal the negative decision.
To appeal a negative decision, you’ll need to file a motion to reopen or reconsider with the USCIS office that issued the Notice of Action. A motion to reopen your case should state the new facts that you would provide if the case is reopened and should include documentary evidence to prove these new facts. A motion to reconsider your case should establish that the negative decision was based on an incorrect application of immigration policy or law, and offer documentation that the proper evidence was properly filed when the decision was made.
Before you attempt to appeal the negative decision, you should meet with an immigration attorney to evaluate your case. Appeals are rarely easy matters, and you’ll want an experienced attorney in your corner who knows how to present a strong argument to have your case reopened or reconsidered.
Call our Immigration team at(480) 626-2388 to discuss your case today.
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