What should you do if your green card has expired or is expiring soon? Don’t panic

We’ve been getting a lot of panicked phone calls lately from clients who have been granted their permanent residency, but whose green cards are expiring. To this I always answer: don’t panic.

Unless you have a conditional 2-year green card, your permanent residency is…well…permanent. Even if your green card expires you are STILL a permanent resident.

So what is a green card?

A green card is the identification card that PROVES you are a permanent resident, but if you don’t have it, that doesn’t mean you lost your status.

Do I face penalties if my green card expires?

While a permanent resident technically might face fines for being WITHOUT a green card, I have never seen these penalties enforced.

There are no fines for having an EXPIRED green card. You must simply reapply for your card. Again, if you get stopped, and show an expired green card you don’t face criminal investigation.

What happens when my green card expires?

  • When you are within the six month mark of your green card expiring it is best to start the process of reapplying
  • If you are thinking of travelling in the year that your green card is expiring, you must deal with it before travel
  • It is possible for them to deny you another green card when you reapply, but not likely (this would be when you call the best immigration lawyer you can find)
  • Even if you missed the expiration date, simply reapply. You won’t get in trouble for doing this. But you WILL eventually get into trouble for NOT doing it.
  • I strongly recommend that you speak with an experienced immigration attorney with any and all questions regarding the I-90 form to renew or replace green card

What problems can come from having an expired green card?

Usually nothing right away, so there is no need to immediately panic, but it will eventually affect your life in some pretty important areas:

  • You need a green card to maintain proof of employment eligibility. If you are a permanent resident you are allowed to work, but you will need a current green card.
  • You need a green card to travel. Getting back into the country with an expired green card is virtually impossible. If you know that you are going be travelling during the time your green card is expiring, you can use a foreign passport with a temporary I-551 stamp. An I-551 stamp is temporary proof (usually one year) that you are a permanent resident. But you should renew your green card first.
  • You frequently need a green card to get a mortgage. Most permanent residents can use traditional lending services to buy a house, but only if their green card is up to date.
  • You need an up-to-date green card to get or renew a driver’s licence. This is the MOST COMMON Problem we see.
  • AND IF YOU HAVE EVER BEEN IN ANY LAW ENFORCEMENT ENCOUNTER, CALL AN EXPERIENCED TEAM OF IMMIGRATION LAWYERS BEFORE FILING GREEN CARD RENEWAL. 

Again, if your green card expired and you didn’t notice, don’t panic. There are no penalties for this. But it is important to renew right away, or better yet, before it happens so that you don’t run into other troubles later on.

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

Do you have a question about Immigration in General?

Call us anytime at 973.642.1111 or email us using the form below.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.