The green card (officially known as a permanent resident card) is proof of your right to live and work in the United States. So if your green card is ever lost or stolen, the experience can be extremely nerve racking.
Don’t panic. You are not the first person to lose your green card. Losing your card does not mean you’ve lost your permanent resident status. But not having a green card can be a major problem when traveling, applying for a job or other daily activities.
Here is what to do when your green card is lost or stolen:
If Your Green Card is Lost or Stolen Inside the U.S.
If you are inside the United States when your green card is lost or stolen, the process to replace it is simple. You will need to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, as soon as possible. It may take more than six months to get your new card. This can be problematic if you need to start a new job or travel abroad.
If you need to travel abroad before you receive the replacement green card, you can make an appointment with your local USCIS office by calling 1-800-375-5283. At the appointment, request an I-551 stamp in your passport (similar to the sample image on the right). The stamp is temporary proof of your permanent residence. Generally, the temporary stamp will be valid for one year. Don’t have a passport? Try contacting the local consulate here in the United States to request a passport. For example, a Mexican national would contact the Mexican consulate in the U.S. to request a passport.)
You may use the I-551 stamp for other purposes as well. An employee must show documentation to his/her employer to show their identity and authorization to work. The I-551 stamp is valid proof of permanent residence for the purposes of employment. A foreign passport that contains a temporary I-551 stamp or temporary I-551 printed notation on a machine-readable immigrant visa (MRIV) is an acceptable “List A” document. Most states also require proof of permanent residence to obtain or renew a drivers license. Although each state has it’s own requirements, most will accept the I-551 stamp as proof.
Note: Take your Form I-797C, Notice of Action, to the InfoPass appointment for your temporary stamp. The Notice of Action is a receipt letter that shows you properly filed Form I-90 to replace your card. You will receive the Form I-797C, Notice of Action approximately 2 to 3 weeks after filing Form I-90.
If Your Green Card is Lost or Stolen Outside the U.S.
If you are outside the United States when your green card is lost or stolen, you can notify the police department in the jurisdiction in which your card was stolen to obtain a police report. More importantly, you will need to obtain a travel document (carrier documentation) to board a transportation carrier (e.g. airline) if you are outside the United States and your green card has been lost or stolen. To obtain the carrier documentation (boarding foil in your passport or a transportation letter), prepare Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation), and file it at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
RECOMMENDED: Lost Green Card Abroad and Returning to the U.S.
Upon returning to the United States, you must also file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, to replace the missing green card.
Have you been outside the United States for one year or more without a reentry permit? If so, please contact an immigration attorney before attempting to reenter the U.S. Permanent residents who travel abroad often or for long periods of time should understand the complications of traveling abroad and consider a reentry permit.
RECOMMENDED: Risks of International Green Card Travel
If Your Green Card is Lost in the Mail
Perhaps you never received your green card from USCIS. If your green card has been lost in the mail, you will need to apply for a replacement card using Form I-90. Depending on the circumstances, USCIS may replace it for free.
If you’ve been following your case online, you can check the status and see when USCIS mailed the card by using the USCIS case status feature. Wait at least 30 days from the date that USCIS mailed the green card. The waiting period allows sufficient time for the card to be mailed and returned to USCIS if undeliverable. Check your initial application to ensure that you provided the correct mailing address. When your green card is lost in the mail, USCIS will replace it at no cost if your situation meets all of the following criteria:
- USCIS mailed the card over 30 days ago;
- It was returned to USCIS as undeliverable; and
- You did not move from the address you provided USCIS.
Confirm these facts before filing Form I-90. If your situation does not meet these criteria, you will need to pay the full filing fee of $540 to replace the green card.
RECOMMENDED: Form I-90 Processing Time
Appealing a Form I-90 Denial
If USCIS denies your application for a replacement green card (Form I-90), they will mail you a letter that explains the reason for the denial. You may not appeal a negative decision. (An appeal is a request to review a decision.) However, you may submit a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider with the same office that made the unfavorable decision. By filing such a motion, you may ask the office to reexamine or reconsider its decision. We recommend the help of an immigration attorney if USCIS denies your green card replacement application. An attorney may be able to help establish that the decision to deny your application was based on incorrect application of law or immigration policy, and further establish that the decision was incorrect based on the evidence in the file at the time the decision was made. CitizenPath helps you avoid these problems from the start.
When you want to avoid denials and delays, it’s critical that you prepare your I-90 application correctly and submit the correct supporting documents. That’s why individuals, attorneys and non-profits use CitizenPath to prepare immigration forms accurately. CitizenPath provides simple, affordable, step-by-step guidance through USCIS immigration applications. You can try the service for free, and you’ll get a 100% money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve your application. We provide support for Green Card Replacement (Form I-90), Citizenship Application (Form N-400), and several other commonly used USCIS forms.
Note to Reader: This post was originally published on July 15, 2014, and has been modified with improvements.