For a lawful permanent resident, denial of a green card renewal application can be extremely stressful. Depending on the nature of the denial, there can be severe consequences, both direct and collateral, ranging from bearing an expired identity document to being placed into removal proceedings. At the outset, it is crucial to distinguish exactly what is being "renewed" because the nomenclature is used so loosely. A green card renewal comes up in two different contexts.
The first scenario involves individuals who have been granted conditional permanent residence. Green card holders in this category received their permanent residence through marriage to a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident but were married for less than two years at the time their cases were approved. Under the Immigration and Marriage Fraud Act of 1986, they are granted two-year green cards. Ninety days before the second anniversary of their permanent residence, such individuals are required to file the I-751 Application (ordinarily with their spouses) to lift the conditions on their residence. If the case is approved-processing times are currently 17 months as of this writing-they will receive their permanent residence without conditions. This is reflected by a new I-551 Card that has an expiration date of 10 years. Technically, people in this first category are not renewing their green cards; they are applying to lift the conditions, but colloquially speaking, this is often referred to in the immigrant community as renewing the green card.
The second category are green card holders who have permanent residence without conditions. These are individuals who may have received their green cards through employment, family, or other categories without being subject to the Immigration and Marriage Fraud Act of 1986 (or if they were, have successfully lifted the conditions). When an individual renews his/her green card in this instance, he/she files the I-90 application for a new card with another ten-year expiration date before the current ten years are up (no earlier than six months prior to expiration).
The difference between these two groups is critical. If a conditional permanent resident fails to file the I-751, or if the I-751 petition is denied, he/she will automatically be placed into removal proceedings. In immigration court, the person is at jeopardy of losing status and being removed from the United States. In contrast, if an individual with a permanent "ten year" green card neglects to file an I-90, his/her permanent residence does not technically expire. The person remains a permanent resident, although practically speaking, he/she may have difficulties renewing a driver license or complying with an employer's request to see proof of one's current immigration status. Fortunately, someone who has failed to file the I-90 or filed it incorrectly can file a properly completed I-90 to rectify the problem.
The above is general information only and not intended to serve as legal advice. It does not create an attorney client relationship, nor should it be relied upon in lieu of consultation with an immigration attorney.