You are outside of the United States. Perhaps you are visiting a family or are on a business trip and find that your green card is expiring, has expired or is even missing. You already know that valid, non-expired proof of permanent residence status is critical to re-entering a U.S. port of entry. What should I do? First, it's important to understand that renewing your Green Card from outside the United States is not an option. You must be physically in the U.S. to renew a green card.
However, there are solutions to bring you home. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) does not support green card renewal from outside the U.S. However, there are several ways to return to the United States after a temporary trip abroad. Each one depends on your specific situation.
My green card is expiring, but I'm in a different country.
If you find that your Green Card expires when you travel outside of the United States (and you return within one year of your departure from the United States and before the card expires), you should renew your Green Card when you return to the United States. Until it expires, the Green Card is valid for entry through a US port of entry.
If you intend to maintain your permanent residency status in the U.S., it is important to return to the U.S. before your trip takes longer than a year. After a year of absence from the USA (even with a valid green card), you may have given up your green card.
Back in the United States, you will need to submit Form I-90 to apply for a permanent residence permit to renew your green card. You can leave the country again, but you must also attend a USCIS biometric appointment in the United States. Completion of this appointment is required to complete the renewal process.
My green card has expired and I am on a temporary trip outside of the United States.
If you are outside of the U.S. for less than a year and have an expired green card, you can most likely return to the U.S. as planned. But the expired green card is likely to cause some problems.
Getting into a transportation company
Transport companies such as airlines and ships must check passengers for passports and visas before they are brought to the United States. As a permanent resident who is temporarily traveling abroad, you can use a green card or a re-entry permit instead of a visa. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Directive allows a carrier being transported to the United States to board a permanent place of residence with an expired green card if the passenger:
- An expired green card with an expiry date of 10 years; or
- An expired green card with an expiry date of 2 years AND a Form I-797 (Notice of Action) showing that you have submitted Form I-751 or Form I-829 to remove the conditions for your permanent residence status , The call to action extends the validity of the card for a certain period of time.
If you meet any of the above requirements, you will most likely be able to board your air carrier. However, we recommend that you check with your airline or ship first. In some cases, the carrier may request valid green cards that have not expired. (If your wireless service provider does not accept an expired green card, you may need to submit Form I-131A (see below) Contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, Additional localized information may be available in this country.
US port of entry
While you may be able to board your carrier with an expired green card, you should still face complications when you re-enter the U.S. port of entry. Re-entry into the United States is always at the discretion of the CBP officer. It is likely that CBP will charge a re-entry fee. In addition to the re-entry fee, you must submit Form I-90 to renew the card.
My green card has expired and I've been outside the US for more than a year.
In this situation, an absence of one year or more from the United States is the real problem. A permanent place of residence that has been outside the United States for a year or more has likely dropped its permanent residence status. There may be exceptions for certain people who qualify:
- Return permission
If you previously applied for and received re-entry, you can reside outside of the United States for up to two years. If this document is still valid and has not expired, you can enter the United States with a re-entry permit. Learn more about re-entry permits.
- return visa
If the reason for your stay outside the United States is due to exceptional circumstances beyond your control, you may be eligible for a Returning Resident (SB-1) visa. We recommend that you contact an immigration lawyer if this is your situation.
Individuals who have been absent from the United States for more than a year but do not qualify for the above exceptions will most likely need to reapply for a green card. If you are a US citizen or family member who is a permanent resident of the United States, he or she may be able to apply for a Green Card. The process begins with the submission of Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, by a US citizen or permanent resident.
My Green Card was lost or stolen outside the United States
If your Green Card has been lost, stolen, or destroyed while traveling abroad, there is a bigger problem. You will need documents to board a transportation company and to support your approval in the U.S. port of entry.
file Form I-131A, travel document application (transportation documentation) to the nearest US embassy or consulate to resolve this situation. After approval, applicants will receive a travel document in the form of an on-board foil or a transport letter. Passengers can present the travel document to the carrier and return to the United States. The document is usually valid for 30 days.
In general, you should only use Form I-131A to request carrier documentation if you:
- After a temporary trip abroad of less than a year, your Green Card has been lost, stolen or destroyed. or
- After a temporary overseas trip of less than two years, your re-entry permit has been lost, stolen or destroyed.
Unlike most other USCIS forms, you must submit Form I-131A to a U.S. embassy or consulate near you. The whole process can take about two weeks before you can return to the United States.
RECOMMENDED: Lost green card abroad and return to the USA
Renew or replace a green card
As previously mentioned, USCIS does not allow green card renewal from outside the United States. However, if you return to the United States, you will need to renew or replace your Green Card using Form I-90 (permanent residence permit application). Replacing a green card can be a lengthy process. So start right away.
CitizenPath provides simple, inexpensive, and step-by-step guidance through USCIS immigration applications. Individuals, lawyers and nonprofits use the service on desktop or mobile devices to accurately create immigration forms and avoid costly delays. With CitizenPath, users can try the service for free and get a 100% money back guarantee that USCIS will accept the application or petition. We support the application for renewal of the transportation document (Form I-131A), the renewal of the Green Card (Form I-90), the citizenship application (Form N-400) and various other USCIS forms.
Note to the reader: This post was originally published on December 26, 2017 and has been amended with improvements.
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