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How to Renew Your Green Card: Everything You Need to Know About the Green Card Renewal Process in 2021

September 18, 2020
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Summary

It is crucial that you maintain a valid, unexpired green card. A valid green card proves that you are legally allowed to live and work in the United States. It also allows you to re-enter the United States after you have traveled abroad. If you have an expired green card or if it will expire within the next six months, it’s time to renew it. The processing time for green card renewal is, on average, 1.5 to 12 months. There is a non-refundable fee of $455 to pay, as well as an $85 biometrics fee in most cases. This guide will teach you what you need to know to renew your green card.



Overview

Who is eligible to renew a green card?

Before proceeding with the green card renewal process, you should first determine if you are eligible to renew your green card. Generally, you can get a new green card if:

  • your card is expired or expires within six months
  • your card is lost, damaged, or has been stolen
  • your card contains incorrect information, for instance, if your name is misspelled
  • you have legally changed your name or other biographic information since you received your card; or
  • you never received the card that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) initially mailed to you. 

USCIS provides an extensive list of reasons to renew or replace your green card on their website. That said, there are some instances when you should not replace your green card. If you have recently completed a citizenship application, such as Naturalization, you do not need to renew your green card to remain in lawful permanent resident status.

How many times can you renew or replace your green card?

You can renew or replace your green card as many times as you need to. 

You should generally aim to renew at the end of the validity period or six months before it expires.

You can also replace your green card if you lose it. It’s a good idea to keep your card in a safe place though, to avoid the hassle of an unnecessary renewal application. 

In addition, if you misplace your card a lot and are regularly applying for a renewal, you might make USCIS suspicious. Green card fraud is common, and irregular green card renewal activity on your part may make USCIS suspect that you are committing green card fraud. This will make it harder for you to prove your case with USCIS and get a new green card in the future. 

If you have to replace your green card several times, it is a good idea to submit a letter explaining exactly what happened to your green card each time so that USCIS doesn’t have as much reason to be suspicious.

When should you renew your green card?

The timing of your green card renewal will be affected to an extent by whether you plan to renew it from inside or outside the United States.

When to renew if you’re inside the United States

If you’re currently in the United States, we recommend that you renew your green card six months before it expires. If your green card has already expired, you should renew it immediately.

According to the U.S. laws on permanent residence, green card holders must be ready to present their valid green cards on request. To be able to follow this rule, you should have your valid green card with you at all times. 

When to renew if you’re outside the United States

If you are outside of the United States and your green card has expired, you must contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, or U.S port of entry, to let them know that your card has expired before you begin the renewal process. The U.S. government officials will let you know of specific requirements for your card renewal. 

If your green card expires within six months and you plan to be back in the United States before the expiration date, you should plan to file for renewal as soon as you return.

How to file a green card renewal application (A step-by-step guide)

The green card renewal application process has four steps. First, you complete the required government form. Second, you assemble all the required supporting documents. Third, you organize payment of the green card renewal fee. Finally, you file your green card renewal application with the U.S. government.

Step 1 - Prepare Form I-90

The first step in the green card renewal process is to fill out Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. You can complete this form online or on paper.

To complete the form online, you must first create a USCIS online account. Once you have created your account and are logged in, you will be able to access Form I-90 and fill it out. 

If you plan to submit a paper form by mail, you must download the most recent version of Form I-90 from the USCIS website, print it out, and then fill it out.

Step 2 - Prepare the required supporting documents

Once you have completed Form I-90 either online or in hard copy, it is time to assemble the required supporting documents. 

If you are replacing or renewing your green card because it expired or is expiring soon, you only have to include a copy of your most recent green card with your application. 

If you are replacing your green card for other reasons, though U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) may require some extra documents. 

If your previous green card has been lost, stolen, destroyed, or mutilated

  • Provide a copy of a government-issued I.D. that has your name, date of birth, photograph, and signature

If you never received the green card that USCIS issued for you

  • Provide a copy of a government-issued I.D. that contains your name, date of birth, photograph, and signature, plus either:
  • A copy of the latest Form I-797, Notice of Action associated with your green card application, or
  • A copy of the page in your passport showing the I-551 stamp you received if you were admitted as an immigrant

If your existing card has incorrect data because the Department of Homeland Security made an error

  • Provide your original green card
  • Provide proof of your correct biographical data

If your name or other biographical information has legally changed, or if your card has incorrect data and the error was not caused by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

  • Provide appropriate legal documents that reflect new or correct biographical data

If you are a permanent resident who is taking up commuter status

  • Provide evidence of your employment that is dated within the last six months

If you are a commuter who is taking up actual residence in the United States 

  • Provide evidence of your U.S. residence. If your proof of residence (such as utility bills) is in your spouse’s or parent’s name, provide a copy of your original marriage or birth certificate

If you have been automatically converted to lawful permanent resident status

  • Provide evidence of your temporary residence status
  • Provide a copy of a government-issued I.D. that has your name, date of birth, photograph, and signature

If you have a prior edition of the Alien Registration Card, or are applying to replace your current Permanent Resident Card for a reason that is not specified above

  • Provide a copy of your Alien Registration Card or green card

If you are filing Form I-90 online, you will be able to upload the supporting documents on the USCIS portal. If you are filing a paper copy of Form I-90, you should include a paper copy of the supporting document with Form I-90 when you send it to USCIS.

Step 3 - Pay the green card renewal fees

When you have organized your supporting documents, it is time to pay the green card renewal fees. It currently costs $455 to renew or replace your green card. In some cases, you will also have to pay an $85 biometrics fee. This USCIS Fee Calculator is a handy tool to help you figure out the fees you must pay for your specific renewal application. 

If you file your Form I-90 online, you may make your payment online using a credit or debit card. 

If you file your Form I-90 by mail (paper), you may pay the fee with a money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or by credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you pay by check, you must make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  

If you can’t afford the filing fee, you may be able to get a fee waiver from USCIS for Form I-90 if you can demonstrate that you’re facing significant financial struggles. But If you apply for a fee waiver, you cannot file for the renewal online. You must file a paper application by mail. You can learn more about the fee waiver application process on the USCIS website.

Step 4 - File your green card renewal application

Now that you have completed Form I-90, organized your supporting documents and the relevant filing fees, it is time to submit your green card renewal application to USCIS.

You should combine your forms, supporting documents, and fees into a packet. Whether you choose to file online or by mail, you should include a cover letter that explains what you are submitting in the packet. A cover letter will help USCIS process your forms more quickly. 

If you choose to file your green card renewal application online, you can do so through your online USCIS account. You may be able to upload your supporting documents online, or USCIS may request that you send your supporting documents separately in the mail. 

If you choose to file your green card renewal application by mail, you should mail your application packet to the relevant USCIS address below. The address you will use depends on which postal service you are using:

Postal/Courier Service USCIS Mailing Address
U.S. Postal Service (USPS) USCIS
P.O. Box 21262
Phoenix, AZ 85036
FedEx, UPS, and DHL USCIS
Attention: I-90
1820 E. Skyharbor, Circle S, Floor 1
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034


What happens after you submit your green card renewal application?

Once U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has received your green card renewal application, two important steps follow before you receive your green card.

1. You'll get a receipt notice from USCIS

First, USCIS will notify you that they have received your green card renewal application. USCIS will send you a receipt notice called the Form I-797C, Notice of Action to the mailing address listed on your Form I-90. The receipt notice will contain a 13-character receipt number (3 letters and ten numbers) that you can use to track the status of your renewal application. 

2. You'll get a “biometrics” notification from USCIS

USCIS will also send you a notice for a biometrics appointment about two weeks after they receive your green card renewal application. The biometrics appointment notice will inform you of a date, place, and time to have your fingerprints, signature, and photo taken. 

If you’re applying to renew your green card from outside the United States, your biometrics appointment will be at the U.S. consulate or embassy closest to you.

If you’re renewing your green card while in the United States, your biometrics appointment will be at a USCIS Application Support Center (ASC) near you.

You can learn more about what to expect and how to prepare for your biometrics appointment on the USCIS website.

How can you check the status of your green card renewal application?

You can check the status of your green card renewal application online. You will need the receipt number from the Form I-797C, Notice of Action that USCIS sent to you. You can find the receipt number on the top left corner of the Notice of Action. The receipt number will be a combination of 3 letters and ten numbers. To check your application's status, you must type the receipt number into the USCIS status checker

If you would like text and email updates about your application’s status, you can also complete Form G-1145, e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance. You can submit Form G-1145 to USCIS after you file Form I-90, but it is best to send Form G-1145 with your original application packet to avoid missing any application notices from USCIS.

How long does it take to renew your green card?

Once USCIS has received your green card renewal application, it will take an average of 1.5 to 12 months for them to send you your new green card. You can check out the USCIS website for the most current processing timeframe.

What should you do if USCIS denies your green card renewal application?

If U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) denies your green card renewal application, they will send you an explanation for their denial. If you think USCIS should have approved your green card renewal application, you can follow this process:

  1. Find a lawyer to help you. It is usually a good idea to get expert legal help once USCIS denies your application so that you can figure out how to avoid having your application denied a second time. You can find an experienced immigration lawyer near you at AILA.org.
  2. Submit a motion to USCIS to appeal their decision with your lawyer’s help. If the decision denying your renewal request can be reconsidered, USCIS will state this on the denial notice they sent you. You can read more about appealing a denial decision on the USCIS website. USCIS will either grant your request within 45 days of receiving it or forward your request for reconsideration to the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) for further processing. The AAO will usually make a decision within six months. 

We can help you avoid denial by making sure that you get your application right the first time with our free online tool.

Conclusion

We hope you found this guide to renewing your green card helpful. Getting your first green card always takes a lot of time and money. So once you’ve earned that green card, you want to make sure you renew correctly. Working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees for your immigration application, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!

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