How to Tell If My Green Card Is Still Valid?

By Mark Fitzpatrick ; Updated April 12, 2017
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Stock pictures of a passport from the United States of America image by Albert Lozano from Fotolia.com

A green card is a term applied to permanent resident cards for immigrants in the United States. Prior to 1989, green cards did not carry expiration dates. In 1989, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, now the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, imposed a federal rule that all green cards have a 10-year spanning date. After 10 years, residents who have a green card must re-apply for renewal. If you are unsure about your current green card status, there are a few steps you can take to find out if you need to renew.

Date the time you were given your green card. You must reapply if 10 years have passed since your green car was issued. Contact your local branch of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for more details.

Contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services if your card dates back to before 1979. All cards given to residents prior to 1979 must be recalled and have been since 1996. If you have not given Immigration Services back your card from that time, your status as a resident of the U.S. has been in question since 1996.

Look at your current green card. Contemporary green cards issued after 1989 have applied renewal dates on the front. It is recommended that you re-apply for a green card renewal six months before the card expires. This recommendation is to expedite the renewal process, but you can renew within the six-month window.

File for a replacement green card. This step is only for you if you your green card is lost or stolen. Contact your local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office to receive a new card.

Hold on to your temporary proof of status. Legally, you must carry your green card at all times in the U.S. If you re-apply for a green card, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will give you a temporary proof of status. This form is a valid form detailing your citizenship status. Hold on to this proof since it may take 10 to 12 months for a new green card to be mailed to you.

Consult an immigration attorney. Only perform this step if you have concerns or reservations about the renewal process.

Warning

Not renewing your green card goes against federal law, but the consequences are more personal than legal. You will not lose your current citizenship status, but you will be unable to seek employment in the U.S. and be unable to re-enter the U.S. if you leave.

About the Author

Mark Fitzpatrick began writing professionally in 2006. He has written in literary journals such as Read Herrings and provides written online guides for towns ranging from Seymour, Connecticut to Haines, Alaska. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Massachusetts.