The Green Card is the official document which signifies an immigrant’s permanent resident status in the U.S. Immigrants who have obtained Green Cards know about the level of importance of this document. With a Green Card, a person can live permanently and work freely throughout the country. Green Card holders are also able to travel abroad and then return to the U.S. at will. Needless to say, losing a green card, either by misplacement or theft, can be a frightening experience. Fortunately, the process for replacing a lost or stolen Green Card is relatively straightforward. In this post, we will provide a quick guide to replacing a card which has been lost either within or outside the U.S.
Although the processes for replacing a card are relatively simple, completing these processes can still take quite a bit of time. For this reason, having an experienced attorney to guide you through these processes can be extremely valuable.
- Replacing a Card Lost within the U.S.
If you lose your Green Card inside the U.S., the process for replacing the card is pretty easy. You will need to obtain and fill out a Form I-90 – the “Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.” After you submit your completed form, you will receive your replacement card in 4-8 months. This is a rough estimate, however, and the experience of any given person can differ considerably. Green Card holders need to show their cards whenever they seek to travel abroad or begin a new job. This is why you should submit the Form I-90 as soon as possible after you realize that your card has been lost.
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If you lose your card and need to show proof of your Green Card status right away, you can visit a local branch of the USCIS and obtain an I-551 stamp. If you request, the stamp can be made on your passport. The I-551 stamp will suffice as valid proof of your permanent resident status. You can therefore use the stamp to travel or even show an employer if you begin a new job. The stamp is valid for 1 year.
- Replacing a Card Lost Outside the U.S.
If you lose your Green Card while you’re traveling abroad, the process for replacing the lost card is a bit more complex, but still manageable. If you lose your card while abroad, this creates an issue for your reentry. The solution for this is that you need to obtain a specialized travel document – “carrier documentation” – which will allow you to board an airplane heading back to the U.S. To obtain carrier documentation, you will need to complete a Form I-131A, the “Application for Travel Document,” and then submit this completed form to the closest U.S. Embassy (or Consulate). In addition, you will also want to report the lost Green Card to the local authorities. Lost Green Cards are often turned over to the local authorities, and so you may be able to recover the card before heading back to the U.S.
Once you return to the U.S., you will then need to complete the Form I-90, just as if you had lost the card within the U.S. Hence, replacing a lost card outside the U.S. involves the same process as replacing a card lost within the U.S., but you need to complete other processes as well.
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Again, even though these processes are relatively straightforward, having a qualified attorney to provide professional assistance is never a bad idea. The last thing you want is to fill out a form improperly and risk a longer wait period to receive your replacement Green Card. If you’d like more information, or need help replacing a card, give the New Frontier Immigration Law firm a call today at 623-742-5400.