Green cards serve as the physical proof of a person’s status as a permanent resident.
USCIS will usually issue green cards for 10-year periods.
Put another way, if your green card is about to expire, you’ll have to renew your documentation.
Generally speaking, under current processing timelines you will receive your new green card in the mail roughly 12 to 13 months after you file the paperwork.
However, this estimate can vary based on the processing center you’re working with, the amount of evidence you provide, whether or not you hire a lawyer, and several other factors.
In this article we’ll broadly explore the basics of how long it takes to renew a green card.
We’ll also answer a few common questions that our clients often have about the process.
Green Card Renewal: A 3-Step Guide and Timeline
Renewing your green card is actually a relatively simple process. Generally speaking, it can be broken down into three key steps:
- File an I-90 Application with USCIS
- Attend a Biometrics Appointment
- Wait for Your Green Card to Arrive in the Mail
We’ll outline the basic time frames and what you should expect for each below.
Step 1: File Form I-90 with USCIS
As outlined on the official USCIS website, you can submit Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card either online or through the mail.
You’ll want to file this form to USCIS around 6 months before your green card is set to expire.
The form itself is quite short, especially if you choose to file online, and it shouldn’t take you very long to fill out.
Basically, it just asks for (1) basic information about you, such as your name, your address, and your A-Number, (2) the reason for your application, such as “my existing card has already expired or will expire in six months,” and (3) various processing information and other administrative questions.
You’ll also have to pay a $455 filing fee, as well as an additional $85 fee for your biometrics appointment.
You should receive a receipt in the mail (or online) around 1 to 3 weeks after you submit your application.
Basically, this receipt lets you know that USCIS received your forms. It provides a tracking number so you can check the status of your application online.
Finally, if you’re uncomfortable with filling out the application you should ask an immigration attorney for assistance.
While the form itself isn’t that complicated, it’s very important to get it correct the first time so your application doesn’t get delayed by a minor mistake.
Step 2: Attend a Biometrics Appointment
You should receive a notice with information about your biometrics appointment around 2 to 5 weeks after you file your application.
This notice will give you an appointment date that is usually around 2 to 3 weeks after the notice was issued (i.e. the appointment will be around 4 to 8 weeks after you submitted your original application).
Basically, this appointment is just a way for the government to take your fingerprints and get an updated photo for your new green card.
Importantly, you should bring the notice of the appointment with you when you go to the FBI field office.
You should also take a valid form of I.D. such as a driver’s license or passport.
Step 3: Wait for Your Green Card to Arrive in the Mail
Sadly, there is currently a significant backup at the Potomac service center where most green card renewal applications are processed.
This means that your green card will likely expire while you wait for the new one to come in the mail.
This is true even if you filed exactly 6 months before your green card was set to expire.
Remember that you can stay up to date on your case by tracking the progress of your application online using the tracking number contained in the first notice you received from USCIS.
If you choose to check online, simply choose Form I-90 and the appropriate service center you filed your application with.
For example, as you can see at the bottom of the image above, the Potomac Service Center currently takes around 12 to 13 months to process a 10-year green card renewal application, from the moment you first submit the documents to the moment you receive your green card in the mail.
Green Card Processing Time FAQ
How long does it take to renew a normal 10-year green card?
Roughly 12 to 13 months from the time you submit your application to when you receive your green card in the mail.
This means you’ll most likely have to live without a valid green card for roughly 5 to 7 months.
Because of this gap, you should avoid changing jobs, moving to a different house or apartment, or making plans to leave the country during this interim period.
While you’ll still be a full permanent resident of the United States, trying to prove this fact without a valid green card can be an uphill battle.
How long does it take to renew my green card after the biometrics appointment?
You can check the exact status of your application online at https://myaccount.uscis.gov/.
You can also check the current processing times at https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/.
Currently, it takes the Potomac service center roughly 12 to 13 months to finish processing an I-90 application after the biometrics appointment.
How much does it cost to renew a green card?
The current filing fee for the I-90 application is $455, with an additional $85 biometrics fee.
You can find a full chart detailing all the possible costs on the USCIS I-90 information page, under the “Filing Fee” tab.
What happens if my green card expires before I receive the new one?
You will not lose your permanent resident status just because your green card expires.
Remember, your green card is proof of your permanent resident status.
It simply speeds up certain processes that require you show proof of residency, such as housing applications or when you want to re-enter the country.
For this reason, you generally shouldn’t worry about an expired green card, provided you’re currently waiting for USCIS to finish processing your application.
Just be especially careful if you do anything that might require proof of residency.
Can I speed up the green card renewal process?
Technically, yes. Realistically, no.
When you submit your application you can submit a request for expedited processing for no extra cost.
However, only the USCIS officer who processes your case can make the decision about whether to actually expedite your application or not.
In most cases, they’ll simply ignore the request.
For this reason, there is no practical, easy way to speed up your application besides simply asking nicely in a cover letter to your application.
As a general rule, it should take roughly 12 to 13 months for the government to fully process your I-90 renewal application, from the moment you first submit the documents to the moment you receive your green card in the mail.
However, you may be able to speed up the process by submitting a perfect application the first time or by asking for expedited processing in a cover letter.
If you’re struggling with any step in this process, you should consider speaking with an immigration attorney.
An attorney can help you fill out the application correctly, and can answer any Requests for Evidence (RFEs) that may pop up in the process.
While you don’t need an attorney to renew your green card, an experienced lawyer may be beneficial in certain situations, such as if you’re unsure about the process itself or if you want to attempt to speed up the renewal process.