How Long is a Green Card Good For?
Posted by Frank Gogol
Possessing a green card doesn’t mean all your paperwork and immigration concerns are over. Or that you now have endless carefree days in the United States. Your green card is proof that you are authorized to live and work in the United States, yes. But green cards expire, and if you hold an expired green card, there can be quite serious consequences. You won’t be able to apply for a job, get a home loan, or re-enter the United States, to name just a few.
As this is the case, it’s essential to know how long is a green card good for. Let’s take a look.
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Do Green Cards Expire?
If you are a lawful permanent resident of the United States and are 18 years or older, the law requires you to have a valid green card with you at all times.
Section 264 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) says, “Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card [green card] issued to him… Any alien who fails to comply with [these provisions] shall be guilty of a misdemeanor…”.
This means if you don’t carry a valid green card, you are guilty of committing a misdemeanor.
So, it is crucial to know whether your green card will expire and if so, when.
The short answer is yes, green cards do expire. Most of them are only valid for 10 years, although there are a few exceptions.
Let’s take a look at exactly how long is a green card good for.
How Long Are Green Cards Valid?
The standard green card issued to lawful permanent residents of the United States is only valid for 10 years. If your green card is nearing its expiry date, it’s important to take steps to renew it early on. Green card renewal takes time, and you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re without a valid green card. Most people recommend you apply for your green card to be renewed at least 6 months before the expiry date. You will use a Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card to renew your green card.
You can see your green card’s expiry date on the front, along with your basic biographical information like your name, date of birth, gender, and country of birth. It should be quite easy to find.
You can read more about the process to renew your green card before it expires here.
Even though most green cards have a 10 year validity period, there are some versions of the green card that do not have a 10 year validity period.
Older Versions of Green Cards
There are specific versions of the green card that are no longer valid at all. If you have one of these green cards, you have to carry a Form I-551 as proof of your permanent residency status. Previous versions of the green card, such as Form AR-3, Form AR-103, or Form I-151, must be replaced. You will also use Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card for this.
You can see which version of the green card you have by looking at the small print in the corner of your green card. Make sure your green card has “I-551” printed in one of the corners. If not, you will have to have your green card replaced.
You can read more about how to replace your green card here.
Non-Expiring Green Cards
There are a fortunate few who possess green cards that actually don’t expire at all. These are the first editions of Form I-551, which were issued between 1977 and 1989. These green cards did not include an expiration date. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has confirmed these green cards remain valid and can still be used. At the moment, they also don’t have a policy in place which requires you to renew it.
Even though your green card may not expire, carrying an old green card can still cause a few problems. One of the biggest possible issues you can encounter is when you try to re-enter the United States after traveling. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officers have a lot of discretion when assessing whether to allow someone back in the country. If the CBP officer believes your photo on the green card is too outdated to be able to confirm that it’s you, or perhaps that your green card is too damaged from wear and tear over the years, they can refuse entry to the United States.
If you are concerned this could be the case, consider replacing your green card before you travel.
You can read more about green cards that don’t expire here.
Conditional Green Cards
If you have a marriage-based green card and you are still within the first two years of your marriage, or you obtained a green card through investment, you only have a conditional green card. A conditional green card is only valid for two years, after which it expires.
A conditional green card can’t be renewed, though. If you are nearing the expiration date of your conditional green card, you have to apply for the conditions of your residency to be removed. You have to file your petition to have the conditions of your residency removed within 90 days of your expiration date. If you don’t, you will lose your permanent residency status.
If your application is successful, you will become a normal permanent resident who will have a green card, which is valid for 10 years. The same rules will then apply to you.
You can read more about the petition to have the conditions of your residency removed here.
If you have a marriage-based green card, you will file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence to remove the conditions on your residence.
If you have a green card for entrepreneurs, you will file a Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions to have the conditions removed.
Now that you know green cards expire, it is important to keep in mind how long is a green card good for. Check your green card’s expiry date, and if it is nearing the end, make sure you apply for renewal in time.