A Permanent Resident Card is proof of your permanent resident status in the United States. It also serves as a valid identification document and proof that you are eligible to live and work in the United States. Immigration law requires you to carry the valid proof of your permanent resident status at any time.
USCIS is currently issuing green cards valid for 10 years and they must be renewed prior to expiration date. If you have been granted conditional permanent resident status, the card is valid for 2 years. Before USCIS issued green cards without expiration date. Since March 20, 1996 they are considered invalid and have to be replaced for fraud protection purposes. So if you still have a green card without any expiration date on the front, you need to immediately replace it to have a valid proof of your permanent resident status in the U.S.
You will not lose your permanent resident status, nor will you be penalized, if you have not applied for replacement of green card. However, It is important to keep your card up-to-date. Without a valid card, it may be difficult for you to prove that you are a permanent resident, and this could also affect your ability to travel or to prove your eligibility to work in the United States.
When to Replace A Green Card?
You will need to replace your green card if:
- Your card contains incorrect information
- Your previous card was lost, stolen, mutilated or destroyed.
- Your card was issued to you before you were 14 and you have reached your 14th birthday (unless your card expires before your 16th birthday).
- You have been a commuter and are now taking up actual residence in the United States.
- You have been a permanent resident residing in the United States and are now taking up commuter status.
- Your status has been automatically converted to permanent resident status (this includes Special Agricultural Worker applicants who are converting to permanent resident status).
- You have a previous version of the alien registration card (e.g., USCIS Form AR-3, Form AR-103 or Form I-151 – all no longer valid to prove your immigration status) and must replace it with a current green card.
- Your name or other biographic information on the card has been legally changed since you last received your card.
- You never received the previous card that was issued to you by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Temporary Evidence of Your Green Card If You Are Outside The U.S.
If you are outside the U.S. and have lost your green card, immediately report a lost/stolen green card to the local police station and contact the nearest U.S. consulate, USCIS office or port of entry before attempting to replace your green card. You may be able to obtain a “transportation letter” from the local U.S. consulate to come back to the U.S. without any proof of permanent resident status. Only after that you should apply for replacement of green card.
Temporary Evidence of Your Green Card If You Are In The U.S.
If you filed for replacement of green card in the U.S., and while your application is pending you need to travel abroad or provide proof of employment eligibility, you can request from USCIS a temporary evidence of your permanent resident status in the form of stamp in the passport indicating that you filed for replacement of green card. This stamp will enable you to travel abroad and renter into the U.S. without any problems.