Applying to Replace a Lost or Stolen Green Card

If you've lost your green card, you will need to apply for a new one - as a permanent resident you're required to carry it at all times. Here are some tips for doing so, and legal traps to watch out for.

If you have U.S. lawful permanent residence (or conditional residence), and after having received your green card, it gets lost, stolen, accidentally shredded, chopped, boiled, or otherwise destroyed, you will need to apply for a new one.

This is especially important because, under the U.S. immigration laws, you are expected to carry your green card with you at all times. And if for some reason you have to take an unexpected trip outside the United States, or simply wish to take an impromptu vacation, you could have a great deal of trouble gaining U.S. reentry without being able to show a green card.

Like with green card renewals, asking for a replacement card is done using Form I-90, “Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.” This form is issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Report a Stolen Green Card

But first, if your green card was stolen, you’ll want to report this to the police. Green cards are a hot item, and there is always a possibility that yours will be stolen and sold. If this happens, be sure to file a police report. You may not get your card back, but when you apply for a replacement card, the report will help convince USCIS that you didn’t sell your own card.

Completing the Paperwork

Here’s how to prepare and submit Form I-90. Most of the questions on the form are self-explanatory. In Part 2, Question 2, Section A, you’ll probably want to choose either “A,” “My previous card has been lost, stolen, or destroyed,” or “C,” “My existing card has been mutilated.” Note that if you are a conditional resident, not a permanent resident, most likely because you either received your green card through investment or through a recent marriage to a U.S. citizen, you will need to answer these questions in Section B rather than Section A.

Be sure to download and read the instructions to Form I-90 as well. These explain the documents that you will need to prepare to accompany your application. For example, you’ll need to submit a copy of either:

  • the card itself, from before it was lost or even after it was mutilated (assuming you can see the basic information on it), or
  • other proof of your identity, such as a passport or driver’s license, showing your photograph, name, date of birth, and signature.

For more detail and help with the form, see How To Complete Form I-90.

Because USCIS assumes that you are in some way at fault for the loss, you will be obligated to pay a fee - $455 form fee and $85 biometric services fee as of 2017.

Your Background Will Be Checked - Including Criminal Records

Note that paying for biometrics means you will have to be fingerprinted before the I-90 application can be approved. You will be called in for a biometrics appointment after submitting your application. This gives USCIS a chance to see whether you have committed any crimes since receiving the green card. If you have, you could become removable from the United States and have your green card revoked, so be sure to consult an immigration lawyer first, before submitting the application.

For more information on the legal problems you may run into, see Renewing Your Green Card After a Criminal Charge or Conviction.

You can submit Form I-90 either by mail or electronically, through the USCIS website. If you choose to file electronically, however, you will still have to separately mail in the supporting documentation. In either case, make a complete set of copies of all the materials you send to USCIS, just in case your application gets lost in the shuffle (it happens).

To check on the progress of your application, use the “Case Status” feature of the USCIS website.

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