Green Card Renewal & Maintenance: What You Need To Know

Mar 21, 2024 | Immigration

If you are a green card holder, maintaining legal status is paramount if you are seeking to keep long-term residency in the United States or eventually apply to become a naturalized citizen. As a green card holder, you enjoy various rights and privileges, including the ability to live and work in the country permanently. However, failure to renew your green card in a timely manner can jeopardize your legal status and lead to potential consequences, such as deportation or difficulty re-entering the United States after travel abroad. 

In this blog, we will provide an overview of the green card renewal process and discuss the requirements to ensure you maintain your legal status as a permanent resident.

Understanding Green Card Expiration

Most green cards are valid for 10 years, but some have much shorter periods of validity, and some don’t expire at all (if they were issued between January 1977 and August 1989). It is incredibly vital that you determine whether or not your green card has an expiration date, and be sure that you are well aware of that date. 

10 years is a long time, and you might get complacent and forget that your green card doesn’t last forever. It is also important to be aware of the date because the renewal process must start 6 months before that day, and waiting too late could put your renewal in jeopardy. 

Failing to renew your green card at the right time or at all can have serious consequences for your life. Your legal status will likely be impacted, as well as your ability to live and work in the U.S. and pursue future immigration opportunities like citizenship. You may lose access to public benefits like Social Security and Medicare, experience difficulty when traveling internationally, be barred from re-entering the country, or even be deported. 

It cannot be overstated how crucial it is to remain acutely aware of the date your green card expires and be prepared to begin the renewal process!

Green Card Renewal Eligibility

To be eligible to renew your green card, you must:

  • Be 18 or older
  • Be a green card holder
  • Have 5 years of continuous residence in the U.S., or 3 years married to a U.S. citizen
  • Be physically present for more than 30 or 18 months (depending on the type of application)
  • Demonstrate good moral character and respect for the law

You will also need to submit the following documents:

  • Form I-90 if you are applying for a replacement green card due to loss, damage, expiration, or incorrect information
  • Form I-751 if you are applying to remove conditions of conditional permanent residence
  • Form I-829 if you are applying to remove conditions of conditional permanent residence status obtained through investment in a U.S. business
  • Proof of continuous stay in the U.S. 
  • Evidence of ties in the U.S., such as family ties, financial assets, bank accounts, or tax returns

Finally, you will need to pay the government fees associated with your renewal process.

Timing And Process For Renewal

You can expect to wait anywhere from 2-12 months for your renewal form to be processed after the USCIS receives it. You can check their website for the most accurate current processing time. However, if you need your green card sooner for an urgent matter, like applying for a new job, you may request an “Alien Documentation, Identification & Telecommunications” (ADIT) stamp to prove your legal resident status. You can also request the stamp to prove your status if you applied for naturalization at least 6 months before your green card expires and therefore did not apply for renewal. 

Possible Complications In The Renewal Process

There are a few things that may jeopardize your green card renewal. The first is making basic errors on your application form. In fact, about 11% of all applications are rejected due to applicants providing incorrect information, failing to sign documents, and failing to pay the correct amount in fees. It also goes without saying that lying on these documents will not lead to a favorable outcome. The USCIS has plenty of information on you, so attempting to mislead them is guaranteed to cause problems. The best way to avoid paperwork issues is to work with a skilled immigration attorney who can ensure that everything is done completely and corrected. 

Additionally, having criminal charges on your record could put a kink in your renewal. Non-citizens found guilty of serious crimes like human trafficking or drug charges will likely face deportation, but even misdemeanors could cause your application to be rejected and for you to lose your legal status. If you were charged recently, or even in the past, it is critical that you speak with an immigration attorney so that they can give you the greatest chance at overcoming this challenge. 

Finally, your application will be denied if you were the subject of a deportation order. These are usually the result of criminal charges, as stated above. 

Travel Considerations

It is not wise to travel abroad with an expired green card, or one that will expire during your travels. You may face severe repercussions if you are not able to prove your legal resident status, such as being denied entry into the country. You may also be subject to fines and additional delays for attempting to enter the country with an expired green card.

Traveling after your green card has already expired could also lead to your renewal application being terminated, and having to start the whole process over again. It is in your best interests to refrain from international travel until you have received your new green card. However, if it is absolutely necessary for you to leave the county, you can use Form I-797 – which is a receipt notice stating that your application is being processed – along with your expired green card to prove your lawful permanent residency status.

Ortega Law Firm Can Make Green Card Renewal Simple And Painless!

You don’t have to go through the renewal process alone! Our lead immigration attorney, Isaac Ortega, is highly familiar with the many facets of the green card landscape. He also has extensive experience with the USCIS, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the 9th Circuit Court. You can trust that he will put you in the best position for getting your green card renewed without any wasted effort or expenses. Call today to schedule your free consultation and learn more about how we can serve you!

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