Proving You're a Lawful U.S. Resident

If you're a newly approved permanent resident, you may not yet have your green card - and there are other reasons you may need help documenting your status.

After your green card is issued, immigration laws require that you carry it with you at all times.  You should also make copies in the event the card is lost.  The copy will help when applying for a replacement card from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

 What to Do If Your Green Card Does Not Arrive When Expected

After you are granted U.S. resident status, you could find yourself waiting many weeks or months to receive your green card.  Until it arrives, the immigration authorities will place a temporary stamp (an "I-551 stamp") in your passport, which serves as temporary evidence of your permanent resident status.  

This stamp can be shown to employers or used to travel in and out of the United States. If the date stamp on the passport has expired before the actual green card arrives, you will need to visit your local USCIS office to get a current stamp.  If you do not receive your card within a reasonable time, you should make an appointment with INFOPASS and visit USCIS to check its status.    

Before your green card arrives, you will receive a letter from USCIS for ADIT processing. You will need to take the letter and your passport to a local USCIS office to provide the information that will be used on your green card.

Expired Green Cards

Some valid Green Cards have no date on them (most do), but are valid for ten years from the date issued. Before the expiration date comes around, you are expected to renew your green card.  If you forget, you will not lose your permanent resident status, but it’s important that you act quickly.  If your card has no date, you can assume it is expired and apply for a new one.

The ten-year validity of a green card does not apply to conditional permanent residents.  If your residence is conditional, not only will your green card be valid for only two years, but your  permanent resident status will expire along with the card. To prevent your status from expiring, your will need to file the appropriate paperwork with USCIS, as described in Filing a Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence.

USCIS began issuing the new, colored card on May 11, 2010.  In addition to actually being green in color, it is also redesigned to deter immigration fraud.  USCIS incorporated state-of-the-art technology into the new card, which prevents counterfeiting, obstructs tampering, and allows for quick and accurate authentication. The cards now replace the old green cards in circulation upon renewal or if you apply for a replacement card.

When to See a Lawyer

If you've made it this far without a lawyer, you probably won't need one, but if you or a member of your family is unclear concerning the requirements of proof of permanent residency in the United States, or whether your current green card is valid, it may be helpful to discuss the situation with a local immigration attorney.

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