What happens if a green card expires? You will not lose your lawful permanent resident status, nor will you be fined. (This article primarily addresses the expiration of a 10-year green card. If you have a 2-year conditional green card, different rules apply, so please see the special section below.) However, allowing your 10-year green card to expire will expose you to potential problems in your life:
- You will find it difficult to travel in and out of the United States;
- You will likely run into difficulties finding and keeping a job;
- You will likely have problems with different types of licensing processes;
You may also have trouble receiving or registering for state and federal government benefits.
Green Card Expired: Top 5 Issues
What happens if my green card expired? Here are some of the common problems you may face if you allow your green card to expire and some of the potential solutions available to you.
1. Getting a New Job
Having a green card allows you to engage in gainful employment and support yourself and your family. However, an expired green card effectively suspends your right to work in the United States until it is no longer out of date.
When you find a new job as a green card holder, your employer must submit a Form I-9 on your behalf. During this step, the new company will verify your identity and confirm that you have all of the required "List A" documents, one of which is a valid green card. If your green card expired, your employer will not accept it.
One possible workaround for this issue is a foreign passport with a temporary I-551 stamp, which satisfies the List A requirement. However, you must have this stamp in your passport, and the stamp must be valid and not expired or you must set a meeting with your local USCIS office to receive another I-551 stamp.
The potential problem with this solution is that it may take a considerable amount of time before you are able to meet with the USCIS because of the limited availability of appointment times and other common timing issues.
If your employer is not willing to postpone your hiring until you get your documents up to date, you will lose out on this and potentially other employment opportunities.
2. Professional License Acquisition
If you have an expired green card, you will find it difficult to obtain or maintain employment that requires that you possess a professional license. In most states, your ability to acquire a professional license is dependent on your having a valid, unexpired green card.
Common occupations that may require you to possess a professional license include doctor, nurse, lawyer, real estate agent, accountant, engineer, and many more. If your green card expires, you will be unable to engage in any type of professional employment because you will not be able to acquire a professional license.
3. Reentering the U.S.
With an expired green card, your ability to reenter the United States will be impacted in a negative manner. This means that your ability to travel for emergencies, pleasure, or business will be put at significant risk. For instance, airlines will likely not let you board because they must require proof of permanent resident status before you can fly.
Additionally, if you try to reenter the U.S. with an expired green card, the CBP may subject you to all manner of delays and even prevent you from entering altogether in certain circumstances.
It is especially important for anyone who travels or might travel out of the United States to always ensure that their green card is valid and has not expired. If it has expired or is about to, it is essential to get the card updated and returned to a valid state.
Green Card Expired Inside the U.S.
If you are in the United States when your green card expires and you need to travel, you may have several options.
You can immediately apply to renew your green card and, once you get the receipt notice, you can travel with the original I-797 receipt notice and the expired green card.
A foreign passport with a temporary I-551 stamp will also allow you to travel as you would with a valid green card. The temporary I-551 stamp that is current serves as proof of permanent residency and can be obtained by making an appointment with the USCIS.
If you choose this option, make sure to schedule your USCIS appointment well in advance of your travel dates because getting an appointment can take weeks. Additionally, you must still file an I-90 to begin the green card renewal process.
Green Card Expired Outside the U.S.
If you have traveled outside of the United States and your green card has expired before you return, you can have significant issues trying to reenter the country. As mentioned, the CBP will take issue with your expired green card and, under certain circumstances, may even prevent you from entering. Airlines may also prevent you from boarding without current proof of permanent residency though they are authorized to board anyone with an expired 10-year green card.
If the airline will not allow boarding, you must prepare and submit Form I-131A to the U.S. consular office closest to you. Once you have done this, the consulate will provide a boarding foil, which allows airlines to transport you into the United States without a valid green card and without the airline being subject to a fine. If you take this route, make sure to give ample time for the process, which can take anywhere between a couple of days and two weeks. Upon arrival in the U.S., you are immediately required to file Form I-90 and pay the fee to renew your green card.
4. Buying a Home
Buying a home is one of the many dreams that green card holders may have. However, if you are interested in buying a home and have found the perfect house, you are likely to encounter problems if your green card has expired.
In most cases, mortgage lenders require you as the permanent resident homebuyer to have proof of current permanent resident status to be granted a mortgage. Without one, the mortgage can not be issued in your name.
Fortunately, you may have a workaround if your green card is expired. With a temporary I-551 stamp, you can prove your permanent resident status to mortgage lenders and get your mortgage. Just make sure that your foreign passport is valid and unexpired. And make sure to take the steps needed to get your green card renewed.
5. Driver’s License Renewal
The ability to drive is essential for most adults living in the United States. Many need their cars to drive to work, ferry their children around, go shopping, and perform many other essential life tasks.
However, if your green card is expired, you will probably be unable to obtain a driver's license. And if you already have a driver's license, it is unlikely that you will be able to renew it once it expires if your green card is not up to date.
In some states, a green card may not be necessary to obtain or renew a driver's license. However, in most jurisdictions, you must have a valid green card. While a temporary I-551 should suffice to acquire a license, in practice, it depends on the state and sometimes the particular DMV. Contact your local DMV for more information.
How Long Is My Green Card Valid?
The current version of the U.S. green card is valid for ten years. The card displays two important dates: the expiration date of the green card and the date your first green card was issued, which is also the date that you became a legal resident. If your green card expired, make sure to renew it immediately.
If you have a green card issued between 1979 and 1989, it is an older version without an expiration date. It is recommended to replace it with the newer version. This is even more important if you want to use the Global Entry kiosks at the airport as they cannot read these older green cards. Also, if the green card photo was taken when you were a child, a CBP officer may not easily be able to verify your identity, causing delays.
Expired Green Card Penalties
If your green card expires, you will currently not face any penalties and your legal immigration status will not change so long as you are maintaining your permanent resident status otherwise. However, the absence of expired green card penalties should not prevent you from taking immediate action to renew your green card.
The filing fee paid to USCIS to renew a green card is $540. Failure to renew will expose you to other problems with work, travel, and driver's licenses.
What Should I Do if a Green Card Has No Expiration Date?
Although all recently issued green cards show expiration dates of ten years, some green cards do not. Some green cards issued between 1979 and 1989 do not have expiration dates but are still considered valid. So it may be used for the purpose of filling out Form I-90 for work.
However, as mentioned above, using a green card with no expiration date can be quite problematic, particularly due to the age of the photograph. If a CBP officer can not determine your identity because the photo was taken long ago, you will face significant delays when trying to enter the country.
Additionally, the Global Entry Kiosks that help speed up travel do not accept green cards that do not have expiration dates.
For some time now, USCIS has discussed implementing a rule that would require green cards without expiration dates to be updated with dates of expiration. However, this has not yet occurred. Even so, it is in the best interests of anyone with an older green card without an expiration date to upgrade to a card that has one.
Conditional Green Card Expired
If you are a conditional permanent resident of the United States, you have a green card with a two-year expiration date. These types of green cards are typically given to spouses of U.S. citizens and residents or to individuals who have made a financial investment in a U.S. business (EB-5).
Such a conditional resident with a 2-year green card must file Form I-751 (marriage) or Form I-829 (EB-5 investment) to remove the condition and receive a 10-year green card. They cannot wait until after the green card expired and instead must file in the 90-day period prior to the expiration of the 2-year green card. Otherwise, they risk being removed from the country.
How to Renew Your Green Card
An expired 10-year green card alone does not initially threaten your overall legal immigration status. However, with an expired green card, you face a number of difficulties that can significantly hamper your efforts to provide for yourself and your family and potentially prevent you from freely traveling in and out of the country.
Contact us to have our immigration attorneys for green card renewal get started on your case today.
What if I get caught without my Green Card?
Permanent residents are required by law to carry their green cards with them at all times. However, most do not, and the authorities rarely enforce this rule if at all.
That said, the potential penalty for not having a valid green card on your person is a fine of $100 and up to 30 days in jail.
Does an expired Green Card lead to deportation?
If your 10-year green card expires, your underlying status as a lawful permanent resident does not change. Therefore, immigration authorities may not deport you from the United States for that reason alone. With that being said, there are other consequences you may face, such as job-related issues and problems dealing with leaving and entering the United States.
Can I travel with an expired Green Card?
Although you should have an unexpired green card to travel, many transportation carriers will allow you to board if you have an expired 10-year green card.
However, to confirm this fact, call the transportation company before your date of travel to confirm that they will let you on board. If they will refuse to allow you on board, you must file Form I-131A and obtain a boarding foil.