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Renewing or Replacing Your Green Card

Many people forget about their Green Cards after they receive them. If you have a Green Card, you may rarely need to present it. Months can go by before you think about it. But, then one day, you will find that you need it. In fact, United States permanent residents are required by law to always carry their Green Cards. If you are a conditional or legal permanent resident (LPR), you must make sure that you have an up-to-date Green Card with you at all times. This way, you will avoid unpleasant delays and problems when traveling, changing employers or seeking public benefits.

Why Should I Worry About My Green Card?

The Green Card itself does not give you permanent residency. It is, however, your proof of permanent residency. United States law requires every immigrant who is eighteen years of age or older to carry their Green Card at all times. Not carrying your Green Card is considered a misdemeanor. If authorities ever ask you for it, you need to provide your Green Card to avoid any trouble.

Failure to carry a valid Green Card can cause a variety of difficulties for you. If, after travelling, you attempt to re-enter the United States with an expired Green Card, you may be delayed during inspection. The INS officer may become suspicious, particularly if you have been out of the United States for a long time. The officer may look at your expired Green Card and assume that you have abandoned your permanent residency in the United States. If you don't have a valid Green Card, you may also have difficulty getting a new job. You might not be able to provide other documents, and your Green Card will be needed to complete the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Finally, if you need to apply for public benefits, such as disability or emergency hospitalization, you must have a valid Green Card to prove your eligibility.

So, find your Green Card now. Look at it carefully. Is your card in readable condition? Has the date expired, or will the date expire within the next six months? Has any of your biographic information, such as your name, changed since your Green Card was issued? Were you under fourteen years old when you got your Green Card, but you're older than fourteen now? Was the card issued with the correct information? The answers to these questions will guide you in deciding whether you need to renew or replace your Green Card.

Should I Apply?

The INS distinguishes between renewal and replacement, primarily because the renewal process for Green Cards began just last year. The distinction between renewal and replacement is also important in determining where you should file your application. In some jurisdictions, you can file by mail. In most places, you must go to the INS office.

Only a legal permanent resident can renew a Green Card that will expire within six months. A conditional permanent resident with an expiring Green Card must apply to have the conditions of residence removed using Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence, three months or less before the Green Card's expiration date. In the meantime, his or her passport will be stamped until the conditions of residence have been removed. Then he or she will be issued a ten-year renewable Green Card.

The only Green Cards that require renewal are those that have been issued to legal permanent residents since 1989. These cards were issued with a ten-year expiration date and have recently begun to expire. Cards issued from 1977 to 1988 do not have expiration dates on them and currently do not need to be renewed. However, these cards need to be replaced for a current edition of the card. If your card is within six months of expiring or has already expired, you should apply for renewal.

Although, for your own convenience and security, you should renew your expired Green Card, there is no penalty if your card has already expired. In addition, if you have filed to become a U.S. citizen, you do not need to renew your card. In fact, because you may not be a legal permanent resident for much longer, the INS will not process your Green Card renewal while your naturalization application is pending.

All of the other cases outlined below require replacement of your Green Card:

  • Your card has been lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed;
  • You are a legal permanent resident who was issued a Green Card before you were fourteen years old. You are now older than fourteen. Your card must be replaced because the INS requires you to update your photograph and be fingerprinted;
  • You are a legal permanent resident who used to live in Canada or Mexico and commuted to work in the United States, and you are now living in the U.S.;
  • You are a legal permanent resident who will live in Canada or Mexico, but you will commute to work in the United States;
  • You have an old version of the Green Card (INS Form AR-3, Form AR-103 or Form I-151) and must replace it with the current version of the Green Card;
  • Your card contains incorrect information;
  • You have legally changed your name or other biographic information since you received your Green Card;
  • You never received the Green Card for which you applied.

About The Author

INSGreencard was founded by William Carroll and Ben Ferro. Messrs. Carroll and Ferro have over 61 years collective experience as senior officers in the US and abroad for the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. Mr. Carroll’s responsibilities included supervision as a Director of the Los Angeles, California and Washington, DC INS District Offices and Mr. Ferro was INS Director for all of Europe (including the former Soviet Union) and the Director of the INS Amnesty Program. They each retired from the INS as Directors in 1998 to join private industry and possess unique and valuable knowledge and credibility in the field of immigration. is an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand immigration website brought to you by two former directors of the INS. Visit INSGreencard for expert assistance, helpful explanations, quick answers, up-to-date news, INS info and forms, comprehensive glossary, useful links, and best of all, INSWizard. INSWizard, your online immigration solution, guides you step-by-step through INS applications and petitions. In minutes, you get:

your completed, accurate form(s)
summary of your application process
detailed filing instructions
sample cover letter
translation certification and addendum
list of additional documents required
important tips and alerts
expert Help every step of the way

INSWizard is a fast, easy and low-cost solution for your immigration needs. Use INSWizard today, only at, your Path to America

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