How to Apply for a Green Card Renewal While Traveling Outside the U.S.

Green card holders have permanent permission to live and work in the United States, and they can travel abroad and return freely in most cases. However, if your green card expires while you’re outside the country, you won’t be able to renew your status until you return.

Although it’s possible to gain re-entry into the U.S. with an expired green card, especially if you’ve been gone less than a year, this isn’t always an easy undertaking. And if you’ve been gone for more than a year, you might need to begin the green card process again by applying for a new card. 

passport green card and american flag
A passport, a green card, and an American flag. As a permanent resident, you have the freedom to travel abroad, but you cannot renew an expired green card while you are outside the U.S.

What to Do if Your Green Card Expires While Abroad

If your green card expires when you are outside the U.S., you will first need to make sure you will be allowed to re-enter the United States. This will depend on how long you’ve been abroad and may require a re-entry permit, proof of an expired green card, or a re-entry visa.

Contact the nearest U.S. Department of State or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) foreign office if you are unsure about your eligibility for re-entry.

If You’ve Been Abroad for Less than One Year

It is easier to re-enter the United States if you are on a short-term trip with a duration of less than a year. You should check with your carrier ahead of time, but you will most likely be allowed to board a plane or vessel bound for the U.S. if you can demonstrate one of the following:

  • Possession of an expired 10-year green card
  • Proof that you have filed to remove conditions on your expired two-year conditional green card

Once you’ve arrived at your port of entry, you will only be allowed in the U.S. at the discretion of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer on duty. In addition, you may be required to pay a re-entry fee.

If You’ve Been Abroad for More Than One Year

In many cases, green card holders who remain outside the U.S. for longer than a year will lose their permanent resident status. If this happens, you will not be allowed re-entry, and you will need to apply for a new green card.

However, you may be granted permission to come back to the U.S. and renew your current green card even after an extended absence if you have one of the following documents:

  • A re-entry permit: Permanent residents can return to the U.S. after being gone for up to two years with a valid re-entry permit.
  • An SB-1 visa: Also known as a returning resident visa, this endorsement might allow you to return to the U.S. if you were gone for more than a year due to circumstances beyond your control. 

Once you are back in the U.S., you can apply for green card renewal through the Form I-90 application package.

Make Sure You Have a Valid Green Card When Traveling

Without any method for green card renewal while abroad, you’ll want to make sure that you never find yourself in this position.

Avoid the problems that come with having an expired green card while outside the U.S. by:

Renewing Your Green Card Before You Travel

Travel takes planning. This is especially true when traveling outside of the United States with your green card.

Check your green card’s expiration date well before your travel dates. If it is due to expire while you’re outside of the United States, or if it’s already expired, it may be a good idea to file for green card renewal immediately.

Green cards expire every 10 years, and you can apply for a renewal as soon as six months from the green card’s expiration date.

Keeping Your Green Card Safe

While traveling with your green card, do what you can to make sure that it’s protected. For example, you can keep it in the hotel safe or in another location that you know is secure.

Also, it’s a good idea to keep a photocopy of your green card in another part of your luggage so that you’ll have proof of your status if your card is lost or stolen.

Remembering Your Green Card

Don’t forget to always bring your green card with you when you go abroad. Your green card is effectively your return pass to the United States, and it is essential to have it with you at all times.

Apply for Green Card Renewal With

Whether you file before taking a trip overseas or after you return, offers a no-hassle, risk-free way to renew your green card. Our Form I-90 application package includes error detection and a double guarantee, so you can be sure that your application is complete and accurate.

Find out more and ensure your eligibility today by taking our online Green Card Renewal Qualification Quiz.

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