UNITED STATES—America is the land of privilege and opportunity. But for becoming a citizen in the US, an immigrant needs to undergo a lengthy process known as naturalization, and it takes quite some time. Before the naturalization is complete, you will be given a green card.

After you have filled out and submitted the I-90 form and are awarded a Green Card, you are a legal resident of the US. This card has up to ten years of validity and needs to be renewed.

Having a green card means not applying for an entry visa every time you visit the US. With a Green Card, you can work, have a professional license, and even a mortgage for a house.

Renewing Your Green Card

Many permanent residents tend to procrastinate when their Green Cards are about to expire. The renewal process is simple and straightforward; fill out and mail the I-90 form to USCIS and pay a $540 fee. The fee might be hefty, but it is mandatory unless you apply for a fee waiver.

A permanent resident should always carry their green card. It is their proof of being a permanent resident in the US, legally. Every permanent resident is advised to start the renewal process almost six months before the expiry date.

Because the renewal process takes a few weeks, if your green card expires while you have applied for renewal, USCIS will not charge you an extra fee, and there is nothing to worry about. But if your green has expired and you have not renewed it yet, then you can get into real trouble.

Finding or Keeping a Job

If your green card has expired while you were working as a permanent employee, you can keep working on your expired green card, but you will not be able to renew your contract. Your employer might ask you to renew your green card.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a job, a potential employer will need to see your green card; if your card has expired, you may not get the job. In that case, a card application renewal for permanent residents is highly suggested; if you haven’t done it, the I-551 stamp on your foreign passport can be used, but that is only valid for one year. No employer will wait until the validity is confirmed.

Applying for a Mortgage

It is almost impossible for a lender to give you a mortgage on a house on an expired card. It is almost illegal. You might be a permanent resident, but your green card has expired, and so has the proof of your immigration status.

The renewal process takes between 0 and 12 months, so it is better to get it renewed in time if you plan on buying a home because every bank will ask for a copy of the green card and your social security number. You could obtain a temporary I-551 stamp from the USCIS as proof of your permanent residence. But the stamp is valid for one year.

Getting a Professional License

As for your professional license, your green card expiration can affect your career. If you are

  • Real estate agent
  • Healthcare worker
  • Legal professional
  • Broker
  • Insurance agent, etc.

You will need a green card to work in the US. Without it, you will not be allowed to work in any capacity. With a renewal, you will be allowed to resume work within a few weeks.

Re-Entry to the USA

If you plan to travel outside the US, that can be dangerous for you as you might be detained and reported upon your return. You will not risk being deported when your green card expires because your permanent resident status remains the same (the card is just evidence of that status).

Also, some airlines refuse to board passengers with expired green cards. So, your re-entry to the US may land into the hands of a CBP officer; it is not wise to take that chance.

Final Thoughts

A green card should be renewed. The process of renewal should start six months before the expiry date. You may not be deported for having an expired green card, but there are unpleasant consequences for not renewing it.

With a law degree under his belt and years of experience, Mark Scott set off to make the law more accessible to all. He decided to help people lost in the maze of legal terminology to find their way. Mark writes clear and concise pieces and gives simple advice that is easy to follow. On account of positive feedback from readers, he decided to dedicate more of his time to this goal and became a legal columnist. In his writings, Mark covers a wide array of topics, like how to seek legal counsel, or how to deal with different procedures. Furthermore, he directs his readers toward other trustworthy resources for more in-depth information.