If you are a permanent resident living in the United States, you should have a green card as proof of your residency status. While having this card is important for many reasons, the validity of the card is not directly linked to your right to be in the country. When a green card expires, it does not mean that you lose your permanent residency status.
However, it is still critical to keep your green card active. You are required by law to have an active green card and can face a misdemeanor charge if you let your green card expire. Additionally, having a valid green card is necessary for many things in your life.
Pay Attention to the Expiration Date on Your Green Card
It is crucial to be aware of when your green card expires so that you can begin the renewal process in plenty of time. It can take several months to renew your green card, so it is suggested that you start the process at least six months before the expiration date.
Most green cards are valid for 10 years from the date of issuance. However, if you are a conditional permanent resident, your green card will expire after two years. If you plan to remain in the country after those two years, it is vital that you take the steps to have the conditions removed from your residency status.
While a green card does not give you the right to be in the country, but rather serves as proof of your permanent residency, with a conditional green card, your residency and your card will expire at the same time. The only way for a full permanent resident to lose their status is by wilfully abandoning it or by becoming a full-blown U.S. citizen.
Even with a standard green card, it is important to make sure you keep it valid as there can be consequences for letting it expire.
Consequences of an Expired Green Card
Letting your green card expire can lead to many complications. For those age 18 or older, getting caught without a valid green card could lead to a misdemeanor charge. If convicted, you could face:
- Up to $100 in fines
- Up to 30 days in jail
- Summary probation
Beyond the strictly legal consequences of letting your green card expire, you could also face many complications in your life. The conviction of a misdemeanor offense could increase your risk of deportation.
Getting a Job
Trying to find work without a valid green card can prove very difficult. Employers can not legally hire you unless you have a valid green card. While some employers look the other way, they do so at their own peril. Most companies will protect themselves and not hire you unless you have a green card.
Even if you are employed, an expired green card can cause you problems on the job. If you work in a field that requires you to obtain a professional license, you will only be able to accomplish this with a valid green card.
Renewing Your Driver’s License
You must provide proof of your identity and residency status when renewing your driver’s license in the United States. Letting your green card expire could also lead to your driver’s license expiring if you are not careful.
Leaving the Country
While you should have any trouble leaving the country with an expired green card, getting back in could prove much more difficult. Your re-entry into the country will be refused if your green card is not valid. There is still a slight chance that you could re-enter the country, but not before long delays and expensive fees.
Buying a House
In order to get approved for a mortgage, you must provide proof that you are a legal permanent resident to your bank or lender by presenting a valid green card. Keeping your green card up to date is critical when you begin house hunting.
Renewing Your Green Card
As mentioned, it can take several months to get your green card renewed, so you should start the process when you still have at least six months left on your current card. While the process takes a long time, that does not mean it is a difficult task.
Simply go online to file Form I-90 to renew your green card. Once you have filed your application for renewal, you will be contacted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to schedule a biometrics appointment, where you will be fingerprinted.
If there is a chance that your green card will expire before you receive your new one, you can schedule an appointment with your local USCIS office to get a temporary I-551 stamp in your passport. This stamp is valid for one year and functions as a temporary green card to prove your status as a permanent resident.