Getting a U.S. green card can be a long, complicated process. However, this process doesn’t end after you receive your card in the mail.
If you want your green card to remain valid, you’ll need to periodically renew it. Further, the amount of time your green card is valid for depends on the type of green card you have.
In this article, we’ll talk about how often you need to renew your green card. We’ll also answer a few frequently asked questions about green card renewal.
When Do I Need to Renew My Green Card?
Most green card holders will need to renew their permanent residency every 10 years.
However, residents who instead possess a conditional green card must renew their residency after 2 years.
During this process, conditional green card holders will petition the government to remove the conditions on their green card.
We’ll briefly explain both of these situations below.
Maintaining Permanent Residency
In most circumstances, your U.S. permanent residency will last for 10 years.
You can start the process to renew your residency 6 months before your green card is due to expire.
In order to do so, you’ll have to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, as well as complete a few additional steps.
Finally, you must also pay a filing and biometric fee to USCIS so that they can process your petition. As of the last time we updated this article (March 3, 2020), these fees add up to $540.
Removing Restrictions on Conditional Permanent Residency
Conditional permanent residents cannot renew their green card through the conventional renewal process.
Instead, you’ll have to apply for a normal permanent resident card before your conditional residency expires.
In most cases, you should begin this process roughly 6 months before your conditional green card is set to expire.
This means that you should apply to remove the conditions on your green card around 18 months after entering the country.
There are two separate processes for removing the conditions on your green card, depending on how you applied in the first place:
- If you gained permanent residence based on marriage, you’ll have to file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence.
- If you gained permanent residence as a foreign entrepreneur, you must file Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions.
In each scenario, you’ll have to meet certain requirements and pay a few fees.
Removing the conditions from your green card can get a bit complicated, so it’s almost always beneficial to speak with an experienced attorney before submitting the paperwork.
If USCIS accepts your petition, you will be a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
Afterward, you will use the process described above to renew your green card every ten years.
Common Questions About Green Card Renewal
Will I lose my residency if my green card expires?
If you are already a lawful permanent resident, you will not lose that status because you failed to renew your green card.
However, you may lose access to some of the benefits provided by that status until you renew your green card.
For example, you may not be able to use your lawful permanent resident status to apply for a job.
This is not because you lost your permanent resident status. Rather, it’s because you may have difficulty proving your legal status to the employer.
Similarly, you may lose your ability to buy a house, renew your driver’s license, or travel abroad until you renew your green card.
How early can I renew my green card?
Unfortunately, you cannot renew your green card until 6 months before it expires.
USCIS will reject your renewal application if you attempt to do so earlier than this time frame.
This is also true for conditional permanent residents.
Remember, however, that it may take USCIS longer than 6 months to process your full application.
For this reason, you should avoid scheduling any major life events (buying a new house, changing jobs, traveling outside the country) until after your new green card arrives in the mail.
Can I renew my green card if I’m outside the United States?
No. You cannot renew your green card while you are physically outside of the United States.
As a further complication, you’ll need a valid green card in order to re-enter the United States.
This can be a major problem if you learn that your green card is set to expire while you are traveling.
If your green card has yet to expire, you can simply return to the U.S. and file an I-90 through the normal process outlined above.
If your green card has fully expired, you should immediately contact the nearest U.S. consulate or USCIS office.
They can help you determine which travel documents you’ll need to file in order to return to the United States.
This is a complicated process that you should avoid if at all possible.
What is “green card abandonment” and how can I avoid it?
Another issue that frequent travelers may have to deal with is green card abandonment.
Lawful permanent residents may only travel abroad on a temporary basis.
In legal terms, this means you may abandon your green card if you are outside the U.S. for more than a year.
In addition, you should always specify that you are only leaving the U.S. temporarily if questioned at a port of entry.
If you remain abroad for more than a year, you may be asked to sign Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status.
Effectively, signing this form will cause you to lose your permanent residency status.
For this reason, you should get in touch with your immigration lawyer immediately if a border patrol agent or similar official presents you with this form.
Together, you can find a way to avoid losing your green card.
What if USCIS denies my renewal petition?
While extremely uncommon, it’s possible for USCIS to deny your petition for green card renewal.
This can happen for a few different reasons:
- You were convicted of a deportable offense.
- You were ordered to leave the country.
- USCIS determined that you falsified your renewal application.
These are all very serious situations that need to be addressed by a legal professional.
If USCIS denies your renewal petition, contact an immigration lawyer immediately.
While the green card renewal process may sound complicated, it’s not actually that bad.
In general, the process boils down into 3 parts:
- Filing Form I-90 within 6 months of your green card’s expiration date.
- Paying a filing and biometrics fee of a few hundred dollars.
- Passing a background check and other procedural steps.
If you are applying to remove the conditions from a conditional green card, the process is generally the same.
However, you’ll have to both use a different form and submit a few additional pieces of information.
You should speak to an immigration lawyer right away if you run into problems while trying to renew your green card.
A good immigration lawyer can help you understand your situation better, and to decide on the best legal option in your particular case.