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How to replace a green card

Steps you need to take

Your permanent resident card proves your eligibility to work and travel within the United States. If you've lost it, or had it stolen, it's important to obtain a replacement green card as soon as possible. In addition, if you've been granted a conditional permanent resident card, you must apply for a regular green card within 2 years. This article explains the steps you need to take for green card replacement, both inside the US and while traveling outside the country.

What documentation do I need to replace my green card?

When you first receive your green card, it's a good idea to make a photocopy of it and file it in a safe place in the event it is ever lost or stolen. If you have a copy of your permanent resident card, that will meet the documentation requirements for obtaining a green card replacement.

If you do not have a copy of your green card, you will need to have a copy of your driver's license, birth certificate, or passport. In addition, you will need 2 passport photos; write your alien ID number on the back of each.

Who do I contact to replace my green card?

If you are within the US and need to replace a lost green card, complete a Form I-90, Application to Replace a Permanent Resident Card. This is the same form you submit when you are renewing a green card that is about to expire.

Once you've completed the form, you will mail it in along with the documents proving your identity, photos, and a green card replacement fee of $365 in the form of a check or money order made out to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. You'll also need to include an additional $85 biometrics fee even though you are a current green card holder. You'll be contacted later for your biometrics appointment.

If you are traveling outside the US and your green card is stolen, contact the local police department and complete a report. Be sure to ask for a copy of the written police report.

Basically, there are 2 ways to re-enter the US if you don't have your green card in your possession. If you have a valid re-entry permit (form I-327), you'll be able to enter even without a replacement green card. If you don't, the process is a little more complex, and you'll need to obtain a transportation letter authorizing your carrier to bring you to the US without incurring a penalty.

Contact the nearest US embassy and complete the transportation letter application. Bring the following documents with you:

  • The boarding pass or other evidence proving your US departure

  • A photocopy of your green card

  • 3 passport photos

  • A copy of your police report or a detailed explanation of what happened to your card

  • Local currency to pay the filing fee

If approved, you'll receive your transportation letter in a few days; you must return to the US within 15 days, or you will have to start the process all over again.

Will I run into problems if I don't replace my card right away?

Technically, according to the Immigration and Nationality Act, if you have been issued a green card, you are guilty of a misdemeanor if you do not have it in your possession at all times. As a practical matter, you will not lose your residency status if you are slow in replacing a green card that has expired, or been lost or stolen, although you may face difficulty obtaining a job or traveling outside the country.

However, if you do not replace a conditional permanent resident card before its 2-year expiration date, you may find yourself in immigration court facing a potential deportment hearing. In general, it's best to replace your green card as soon as possible.

If you're unsure about any of the steps involved in obtaining a replacement green card, consulting with an attorney experienced in immigration matters can clear up your questions and concerns.

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