The green card, officially known as the Permanent Resident Card, is proof that an immigrant has been granted the right by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to permanently live and work in the country. Once a person has been granted a green card, she must still make sure to renew her green card before it expires. While an expired green card doesn’t take away the person’s permanent resident status, failure to renew a green card may create problems with reentering the country from abroad and obtaining employment.
Expiration Date on Green Card
Most green cards are valid for 10 years. However, those who have been granted conditional permanent resident status have green cards that are valid for only two years. A person can tell if her green card is still valid by looking at the card itself. The exact expiration date can be found on the front of the card.
The expiration date is located at the bottom of the card, right under the permanent resident’s identifying information, which consists of his name, USCIS alien number (alien registration number), green card category code, country of birth, date of birth and sex. Under the expiration date is the date that the permanent resident became a resident of the country. To the left of the expiration date is the permanent resident’s photo and signature.
Green Cards Without Expiration Dates
Some green cards that were issued years ago have no expiration date on the front. Most old versions of green cards are no longer valid. However, cards with no expiration date that were issued between 1977 and 1989 and bear the notation I-551 are still valid.
In 2007, USCIS proposed a rule that would have required permanent residents to replace their green cards with no expiration dates. In its proposal, USCIS noted that the proposed rule, if implemented, would allow the agency to update the photographs and biometrics on the cards. The agency also pointed out that the new green cards have enhanced security features.
While the proposal was never implemented into law, USCIS now recommends that permanent residents who still have an old green card with no expiration date to renew it to the updated version. Not only does the new version of the green card offer better security features, traveling with a green card without an expiration date can result in additional security screenings at the airport.
Renewing the Green Card
Permanent residents whose green cards have expired or will expire within six months can renew their green cards. This can be done by filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card and paying the filing fee. The form can be filed and the filing fee paid online with a USCIS online account. The form also can be filed by mail and the filing fee paid with a money order, personal check, cashier’s check or by credit card.
Conditional permanent residents, whose green cards are valid for only two years, must file a petition to remove the conditions before the card expires. The petition can be filed 90 days before the conditional green card expires. If USCIS approves the petition, then the cardholder is sent a new green card with an expiration date that is valid for 10 years. Failure to remove the conditions before the card expires can result in losing permanent resident status.
Those whose conditional status was based on marriage must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence. Those whose conditional status was based on their status as an investor or entrepreneur must file Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status. These forms can be filed online or by mail.
- 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.
Karen graduated from Southwestern Law School in 2003 with a Juris Doctor degree. She has worked for several law firms, providing legal services in various fields including immigration, housing, bankruptcy and family law.