If you are currently a lawful permanent resident in the U.S., you will have a green card. The green card serves as a physical representation of your permanent residence status, and shows that you are allowed to work and live in the U.S.
Currently, green cards are valid for 10 years, and therefore are expected to be renewed at the end of that period.[i]
NOTE: Those with conditional green cards may only have permanent residency for two years instead of ten. The process for you to renew your green card will be entirely different.[ii]
If you find that your green card has either expired, or is set to expire sometime within the next six months, the first step you have to take is to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, as issued through USCIS.[iii]
This application is straightforward and requires that you include such information as:
- Alien registration number
- Social Security Number
- Type of green card you obtained
- Reasons for submitting this form
- When you were granted a visa or adjusted your status
- When you were admitted
- Place and date of birth
- Current address
- A copy of your green card
Once you have filed this information and paid the filing fee, USCIS will process the application and alert you of their final decision by mail.
Further, even if you fail to renew your green card, it is important to note that your lawful permanent residence status will not be changed in anyway just because of your failure to renew your card.
But, it will be much more difficult for you to establish your status, find employment, or come back to the U.S. after you traveled abroad. In addition, the law requires you to carry a valid card, so when you do not renew your green card, an expired card cannot be considered as legitimate evidence of your status.[iv]
Renewing From Outside the U.S.
If you are currently outside of the U.S., there are several steps you have to follow. If your card is set expire within the next six months, and you currently plan to return to the U.S. within one year from when you originally left, you have to file to renew your green card immediately after you return to the U.S.[v]
Again, that requires you to file Form I-90, which can either be filed online or through the mail.
Instead, if you find that your card has already expired and you’re still outside of the U.S., but you have not yet filed to renew your card, you will have to follow a different set of steps. First, you should reach out to your closest U.S. Consulate, USCIS office, or any port of entry into the U.S. before you submit your Form I-90 to renew your green card.
Conditional Permanent Resident
If instead you are a conditional permanent resident, and your card is about to expire, you will not file a Form I-90. Instead, you have to file a petition to remove those conditions.
It is important to note that you have to file that petition within 90 days of your card expiring.[vi]
Further, what forms you will have to file to remove the conditions depends on how you achieved your status in the first place. If you do not attempt to remove any of the conditions on your permanent residency before your card expires, it’s possible that you can lose your permanent residency status. [vii]
If you obtained your conditional status through a marriage, you have to file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. Instead, if it was granted to you due to you being an investor or an entrepreneur, you are required to use a Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions. [viii]
If Your Application is Denied
Once you have submitted your Form I-90, you could receive a letter in the mail that tells you that your application was rejected, and why it was rejected. If such a situation occurs, you should first contact a lawyer.
Second, it is important to note that you cannot appeal a rejection decision. Instead, the only available avenue for you is to file a motion to reopen, also known as a motion to reconsider.[ix]
This will be done through the same office that originally processed your application. When you file a motion to reopen or reconsider, you are asking the USCIS office to take another look at your application, and possibly reconsider and change its decision.
When you are submitting this motion, you have to provide several key pieces of evidence.
First, you have to show that you have new facts that you could provide to the USCIS office if your case is opened.
Second, you have to show that when your application was denied, it was because the law was not applied correctly, or the current policy surrounding immigration that was used to decide your case was misinterpreted.
Also, you will have to show that the final decision was wrong, as it can be proven through the type of evidence that you provided in your file when your case was originally decided.[x]
[i] INA § 246.
[ii] INA § 216.
[iii] See id.
[iv] Supra note 1.
[v] 8 CFR § 103.7(b)(g).
[vi] INA § 216(c); INA § 216(d); INA § 216(a).
[vii] See id.
[viii] See id.
[ix] 8 CFR § 249.3.
[x] See id.