US Immigration News

How to Renew Your Green Card While Traveling Abroad

4 minute read
"Traveling outside the US with an expiring, already expired, or a lost Green Card while abroad can result in a lot of hassle upon reentry. Having a valid Permanent Resident Card, also known as a “Green Card” is very important when returning to the US after a trip abroad. So what can you do if your Green Card expires or gets lost or destroyed when you are abroad?"
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Sep 7, 2021
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Traveling outside the US with an expiring, already expired or even losing your Green Card while abroad can mean a lot of hassle at reentry. Having a valid Permanent Resident Card, also known as a “Green Card” is very important when returning to the US after a trip abroad. So what can you do if your Green Card expires or gets lost or destroyed when you are abroad?

First of all, it is impossible to renew your Green Card while you are still abroad since you need to be physically present in the US to start the process. However, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) offers several pathways for permanent residents to return to the US without their Green Card based on their situation.

What Can You Do If Your Green Card Is About to Expire While Traveling Abroad?

If your Green Card is about to expire while you are traveling abroad and you intend to return within 1 year before the expiration date, then you can renew it after reentering the US. However, it must be valid throughout reentry and not expire before you enter the US. 

Maintaining your permanent residence requires you to return to the US within 1 year of your departure. Longer than 1 year of absence from the country can lead to the abandonment of your permanent residence. 

After returning to the US, you can renew your Green Card by filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. You can also leave the US again after you have completed the renewal process which includes submitting your biometric information with the USCIS.

What to Do If Your Green Card Expires While You Are on a Temporary Trip Abroad?

If you were traveling abroad when your Green Card expired, then you can return to the US if it has been less than 1 year. However, an expired Green Card will create some problems. Since traveling in an airplane or a ship requires you to have an adequate visa and passport to travel to the US, an expired Green Card will be accepted if it has a 10-year expiration date or a 2-year expiration date. 

You will need the Form I-797C, Notice of Action to show that you filed a Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, and the Form-828 to remove the conditions on your conditional Green Card. 

You will be allowed to travel back to the US with an expired Green Card if you meet either of the above-mentioned conditions. However, in some cases, you can be denied passage, in which case, it is best to contact a local US embassy or consulate. 

What Happens at the US Port of Entry?

Once you travel back to the US with your expired Green Card, you can expect some trouble at the Port of Entry. The Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) official will require you to pay a re-entry fee and file Form I-90 to renew your Green Card.

What Will Happen If Your Green Card Expires and You have been Abroad for More Than 1 Year?

In this situation, likely, it is already considered that you have abandoned your status as a permanent resident. However, you may qualify for certain exemptions if you have:

Reentry Permit: 

Applying for a reentry permit before leaving for abroad demonstrates that you had an intention to return to the US. A reentry permit is valid for 2 years and allows you to reenter the US even with an expired Green Card.

Returning Resident Visa: 

If you are abroad due to circumstances that are outside of your control, you may be eligible to apply for a returning resident visa (SB-1).

If you do not meet the above criteria for exemption, then it is likely that you may need to apply for a Green Card once again. Having family members who are US citizens or lawful permanent residents can help since they can petition your application for a Green Card.

What Happens If Your Green Card Was Lost or Stolen While Abroad?

If somehow your Green Card was lost, stolen, or destroyed during your travel abroad, then you can file Form 1-131A, Application for Travel Document to the nearest US embassy or consulate.

You can present this travel document to the transportation carrier and return it to the US. It is typically valid for 20 days. You will be eligible for this document if:

  • You are returning to the US after less than 1 year of travel abroad and your Green Card was lost, stolen or damaged
  • You are returning to the US after 2 years of travel abroad and your reentry permit was lost, stolen or damaged

You must file Form 1-131A at your nearest US embassy or consulate at the earliest possibility before you intend to return. The whole process takes up to 2 weeks. 

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