When most people receive their permanent resident or green cards, they believe that they are finally finished with the immigration process (unless they intend on filing for naturalization one day). One thing that is often overlooked is that the green card bears an expiration date, and it is the responsibility of the permanent resident to renew it. Bear in mind that this discussion pertains to aliens who have received permanent green cards (in other words, not aliens who have been conferred conditional permanent residence; conditional permanent residents will file to file for their permanent green cards ninety days before the second anniversary of when their case was approved. That is an entirely different process, which involves the filing of Form I-751.)
When can a green card be renewed?
An application to renew the green card should ordinarily be filed within six months of expiration. It can be filed after it has already expired, but a permanent resident would ideally want to file before expiration. There are several reasons why, of course, including the obligation to always carry the current version of the card. But in addition, failure to renew the card can lead to many practical problems including the renewal of driver licenses as well as continuing proof of eligibility to work. In both instances, the Division of Motor Vehicles as well as many employers will require proof of the individual's permanent residence. Technically speaking, the expiration of one's permanent green card does not lead to a revocation of one's permanent residence. Nevertheless, individuals and agencies not versed in the nuances of immigration will not understand this, and some people may have to learn this the hard way.
How to renew a green card inside the United States
To renew a green card from within the United States, the permanent resident must file Form I-90: Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. The filing fee is currently (as of August 2014) $450, which includes the base $365 form fee plus a $85 biometric (fingerprinting) fee. The process does involve the applicant having to appear for a biometrics appointment and can take up to six months to receive the new card.
How to renew a green card from outside the United States
For green card holders whose green cards are due to expire within 6 months, the best option is to return to the United States as soon as possible to file for a renewal. (A permanent resident may encounter trouble re-entering the US if the card has already expired.) If return before expiration is not possible, the permanent resident should contact the nearest US consulate abroad to address the situation. In many cases, the consulate may provide a travel letter bearing proof of the person's permanent residence and authorize Customs and Border Protection to admit the individual.
Checking Application Status
Once Form I-90 has been filed, the applicant can check the status of his/her case by calling the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. When calling, be sure to have the receipt number, alien registration number, and date of birth ready for the USCIS staff member. The applicant can also go online to https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/Dashboard/CaseStatus.do to check his or her case status.
Appealing Denied Renewals
When an application for renewal is denied, the applicant will be ordinarily be informed via letter, which will include the basis for the denial. Once the letter is received, the noncitizen will be advised of the right to file a motion to reopen or motion to reconsider.
The two motions are different in that they ask for the case to be re-evaluated but under different rationales. A motion to reopen states new facts, which must be properly documented, which the noncitizen believes would cause the USCIS office to render a favorable decision. On the other hand, a motion to reconsider argues that the denial was premised on an improper application of law/immigration policy, and that the application should have been approved based on the original evidence provided.
How to File the Motion to Reopen/Reconsider
If the applicant desires to file either motion, it should be filed on Form I-290B: Notice of Appeal or Motion and normally within 30 days of the decision. The denial letter will normally provide instructions as to the filing fee and filing location.
Reasons Why You Might Want To See An Attorney
If, since receiving the green card, the permanent resident has been arrested/convicted of any criminal charges, he or she should certainly consider discussing the implications of such activity with an immigration attorney. Any criminal conviction, especially one involving moral turpitude, may potentially trigger deportability charges, and one of the ways in which a permanent resident would precipitate this risk without adequate time to anticipate and prepare, would be by filing the I-90 without first understanding the consequences. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a criminal conviction which may have lain dormant for many years to suddenly turn into a timebomb when an I-90 is filed and fingerprints are taken.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the "Subscribe To This Blog's Feed" button on the right. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship nor should it be relied upon as legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the "Case Evaluation" box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.