How Long is A Green Card Good For?

Despite its name, a Permanent Resident Card isn’t so permanent.

Yes, Your Green Card Will Expire

For many, many people that have gotten their green card, it can be a bit disheartening to realize that the paperwork isn’t over, or that their new card comes with a few strings attached.

A green card does give a foreign immigrant the ability to live and work anywhere in the United States. However, like all government documents and identification, there is an expiry date. And, like driving or operating a business with an expired license, getting caught with an expired green card can lead to some serious ramifications.

How Long Does a Green Card Stay Valid?

There are a variety of different factors to consider when it comes to determining how long your green card is valid. For example, some green cards are conditional and will expire within two years of being registered. On the other hand, certain green cards are outdated and must be renewed immediately.

In most instances, the standard-issue green card is valid for 10 years before requiring renewal.

While 10 years may sound like a long time, the process for renewing your green card can take time. Generally, the time it takes to renew a green card can range between 6 and 15 months, making it very important to renew as early as possible.

Risks of Carrying an Invalid Green Card

There are a host of potential issues that can come from carrying an invalid green card. According to Section 264 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), any immigrant that is found with an expired or invalid green card is guilty of committing a misdemeanor. This can result in a fine of up to $200 as well as up to 20 days in jail.

In addition, an expired or invalid green card can result in being denied a job or any financial loan. It also will make travel from or into the country incredibly difficult. Federal guidelines state that all green cards are checked, and to deny boarding for any that are expired.

An expired green card can also make applying for citizenship more difficult, and can potentially lead to outright rejection.

Types of Green Cards

Over the years, there have been numerous types of green cards produced. Currently, there are only two valid types of green cards that are accepted, standard and conditional green cards.

Standard Green Cards

A standard green card is what the majority of people will apply for. This is through employment, registry, as a special immigrant, and a variety of other methods. This expires within 10 years and should be renewed no later than 6 months before the expiration date.

Conditional Green Cards

A conditional resident’s green card is given to immigrants that are here based on marriage or through investments. These green cards expire within 2 years and must be renewed no later than 90 days before their expiry date.

Conditional green cards can be petitioned to have their conditions on residence removed. This will revert the green card into a standard option and the 10-year expiration date.

How to Apply for a Renewal

To renew their green card, all immigrants must fill out an I-90 form along with a renewal fee of $540. This can be done either through mail or online and will include a biometric scan which will check the federal database for any criminal activity or immigration violations.

If there are no issues, you should have it between 6 and 15 months. If there are concerns, you will be notified and may need legal counsel to rectify the issue.

Applying Naturalization Instead

For individuals that are eligible for citizenship, it may be worth considering the process for naturalization over renewal. By obtaining US citizenship, you are free from indefinitely filing for renewals and are essentially recognized as a fully naturalized US citizen.

The requirements for citizen eligibility are fairly extensive and only certain immigrants will qualify:

  • Must have held a green card for at least 5 years (3 years for spouses of US citizens)
  • Must have physically lived in the US for at least half the number of the required years of permanent residence
  • Spent less than 6 months outside of the US during their required years of permanent residence
  • Must have lived in the same state for 3 months before applying to the local USCIS district
  • Must be 18-years-old by the time of them filing their citizenry application
  • Must have demonstrated good moral character throughout time in the US
  • Must be able to speak, read, and write English
  • Must pass a brief oral exam on US government and history
  • Must affirm loyalty and be willing to serve in the military if required

Not all green cardholders will qualify for this. As such, it is up to the individual to determine whether it is more advantageous to apply for citizenship or a renewal.

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