Losing your green card or having it stolen can be a scary experience. It’s an essential piece of identification that provides proof of your lawful permanent residence in the United States. You’ll want to know how to replace a green card as quickly as possible.
Rest assured, you do not lose permanent resident status when you lose your card. You continue to be a lawful permanent resident. However, you’ve lost the proof of your immigration status. And not having a valid green card can create some major problems. Among other things, you need the card to accept employment and reenter the United States after travel abroad.
RECOMMENDED: Missing or Expired Green Card Creates 5 Big Problems
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government agency responsible for administering much of the immigration system and reissuing identification. You’ll need to submit an application to USCIS for them to issue you a new permanent resident card (green card). Here’s how to replace a green card:
Step 1: Preparing to Replace a Green Card
There are several good reasons one might need to replace a green card. Anyone renewing or replacing a green card will need to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It will take several months to receive your new card, so file Form I-90 as soon as possible. Some reasons that you might use Form I-90 include:
- Your card was lost, stolen or destroyed
- Your card was issued but never received
- Your card was mutilated
- Your card has incorrect data
- Your name or other biographic information has been legally changed
- You have reached your 14th birthday and are registering as required
- Your card is expiring within 6 months or has already expired
There are a variety of reasons you may need to replace a green card. All use the same application — Form I-90.
Step 2: Prepare Form I-90 to Replace a Green Card
There are two ways that you can prepare Form I-90.
First, you may access Form I-90 from the USCIS website. You will also need to review the 13-page instructions from the same page. Although there is a USCIS filing fee when you submit Form I-90, there is no cost to obtain the form. Many people can prepare the form by themselves. However, mistakes and omissions can result in costly delays or even denials. USCIS denies about 50,000 applications a year.
Alternatively, you may prepare the form online at CitizenPath.com. Our simple, step-by-step instructions guide you through the form. If there’s a problem, CitizenPath will alert you. Upon answering the questions on CitizenPath, we will provide you a ready-to-sign copy of the application. In addition to your prepared form, CitizenPath provides you with a set of personalized filing instructions. Our filing instructions are customized to your answers in the application so you know what to do for your specific situation. The filing instructions provide detailed directions on supporting documents, how to organize your application, and where to mail it.
CitizenPath was created by immigration attorneys, and we guarantee that USCIS will approve your Form I-90. Try it for free. You won’t have to pay until you are completely finished.
Step 3: Gather Documents and Mail with Form I-90
Once you have prepared Form I-90, you will also need to gather specific documents and your payment to submit with Form I-90. If you downloaded the form from USCIS, be sure to download the instructions as well. The instructions will detail the documents that should accompany your green card replacement.
If you use CitizenPath, the filing instructions will provide a simple check list of documents for you to include. Regardless of which method you use, you will need to send a filing fee to USCIS. In some cases, USCIS will waive the fee.
You may also consider using a cover letter to clarify your request. Find I-90 sample cover letters in our support center.
Tip: Keep good records. Make a photocopy of your I-90 application and mail it to USCIS via certified mail.
Step 4: Save Your Records
Approximately 2 to 3 weeks after filing Form I-90, USCIS will mail you Form I-797C, Notice of Action. This “receipt notice” is an important document. It’s proof that USCIS has accepted your Form I-90 application. It’s also evidence that you’ve started the process. Save this important document.
The receipt notice also contains a receipt number. You can use the receipt number to track your case status on the USCIS website.
Tip: If you file Form G-1145 at the same time as Form I-90, USCIS will notify you via email or text within 24 hours of accepting Form I-90. This is an optional form. When you prepare your I-90 through CitizenPath, we will prepare a free G-1145.
Step 5: Attend your Biometrics Appointment
Although you may travel during the replacement process, it is very important that you attend your biometrics appointment. Approximately 3 to 5 weeks after filing Form I-90, USCIS will mail you an appointment notice to attend a biometrics appointment at an Application Support Center near you. Take your appointment letter and any other items listed in the letter (especially some form of photo identification). The biometrics appointment includes of fingerprinting and taking your photo for your green card.
RECOMMENDED: What Happens at a USCIS Biometrics Appointment
Tip: Tell USCIS if you intend to travel abroad. If you’ve lost the green card, USCIS can provide an “I-551 stamp” in your passport as temporary proof of your permanent resident status. The stamped passport will enable you to reenter the U.S. after travel abroad. Read more in Risks of International Green Card Travel.
Step 6: Receive your Green Card Replacement
Generally, there is no interview after filing Form I-90. Unless you have picked up a criminal offense or other complications since receiving your initial green card, your new card should arrive in the mail. If you do have a criminal record or immigration violations, please contact an experienced immigration attorney before filing.
The entire process generally takes 8 to 10 months. For the best results, make sure you’ve prepared Form I-90 accurately and have included all of the necessary items when you file.
Tip: Upon receiving your new green card, make a photocopy of both sides. Keep this photocopy in a safe place. If you ever lose your green card, you’ll have a photocopy that will make it easier to prepare Form I-90 with the correct information.
CitizenPath provides simple, affordable, step-by-step guidance through USCIS immigration applications. Individuals, attorneys and non-profits use the service on desktop or mobile device to prepare immigration forms accurately, avoiding costly delays. CitizenPath allows users to try the service for free and provides a 100% money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve the application or petition. We provide support for the Application for Carrier Document (Form I-131A), Green Card Renewal (Form I-90), the Citizenship Application (Form N-400), and several other popular forms.
Note to Reader: This post was originally published on December 1, 2015, and has been modified with improvements.