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 3-5 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 using InfoPass. At the appointment, you can request a “temporary proof of permanent resident” stamp in your passport (similar to the sample image on the right). 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.)
The I-551 stamp can be used for other purposes. 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-797, Notice of Action, to the InfoPass appointment for your temporary stamp. The Notice of Action is similar to a receipt that shows you properly filed Form I-90 to replace your card. You will receive the Form I-797, Notice of Action approximately 2-3 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 should notify the police department in the jurisdiction in which your card was stolen to obtain a police report. Before attempting to re-enter the U.S. contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to request a boarding foil. A boarding foil, formerly known as a transportation letter, allows you to re-enter the United States if you have been outside the U.S. for less than one year.
Upon returning to the U.S., you will be required to replace your lost or stolen green card by filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident 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. If you travel abroad often or for long periods, read Risks of International Green Card Travel and consider a reentry permit.
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, you may be able to have it replaced for free.
If you’e been following your case online, you can check the status and see when it mailed using the USCIS Case Status feature. Wait at least 30 days from the date that USCIS says it was mailed. This 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 the following criteria:
- USCIS mailed the card over 30 days ago
- It was returned to USCIS as undeliverable
- You have not moved 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 $450 to replace the green card.
CitizenPath makes preparing Form I-90 simple. The online service provides simple, step-by-step guidance through USCIS applications and petitions. We even provide alerts if your answer to a question could be a problem. And CitizenPath guarantees that USCIS will accept your application. CitizenPath provides support for the Citizenship Application (Form N-400), Green Card Renewal (Form I-90), and several other popular forms.