Green card holders are acutely aware of how important their green card is since it grants them permanent residency and permission to work within the United States. In fact, when traveling outside of the US, it must be presented to reenter. 

If a green card (Form I-551) is lost, stolen, or destroyed, it must be replaced immediately. The cardholder should promptly file a police report, which can subsequently be provided as evidence when requesting a replacement. The police report helps substantiate that the card was not sold. If requesting a replacement card under a new name (e.g. marriage, divorce, etc.), the application should be completed under the new name.

A green card is valid for 10 years. It is advised that cardholders file for a new one within six months of its expiration date (filing is prohibited earlier than six months before expiration).

Important Tip

It is important to scan or capture an image of your green card. Can’t do that at home? There are many facilities— the library, copy/printing shop, etc.—that can do it for you. That way, if lost, you will have access to all the numbers and other information needed to replace it. Most importantly, a copy of the card must be submitted with the replacement application. 

The Process

The I-90 green card application is used for new requests, replacements, name changes, and renewals. This form can be obtained directly from a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office, requested to be mailed by calling 800-375-5283, or downloaded from the USCIS website using the latest version of Adobe Reader. The form can be submitted by mail or online through the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS). It takes approximately 15 minutes to complete the 8-page form. Before starting, download the detailed instruction sheet and read it carefully.

Some of I-90’s “Hard” Questions

Part 1, Item 1: Alien Registration Number (A-Number). This is the 8 or 9-digit number on the green card under “USCIS#.” 

Part 1, Item 2: USCIS ELIS Account Number (if any). If the cardholder has previously used the electronic immigration system, they will have been issued a USCIS ELIS account number. If not, leave blank.

Part 1, Item 11: Class of admission. This appears on the green card under “Category.” It is usually one or two letters followed by a number (e.g., NP5). 

Part 1, Question 12: Date of admission. This is located on the green card under “Resident since.” 

Part 3, Item 1: Location where you applied for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status. Provide the location of the U.S. embassy, U.S. consulate, or USCIS office where the original application was filed. “Adjustment of status” means the applicant was already in the U.S. under another immigration status when the application was filed for the green card. 

Part 3, Item 2: Location where your immigrant visa was issued or USCIS office where you were granted adjustment of status. Provide the location of the U.S. embassy, consulate, or USCIS office where the cardholder was issued an immigrant visa or granted permanent resident status.

Part 3, Item 3a: Destination in the United States at time of admission. This is only completed if the applicant entered the U.S. with an immigrant visa. In short, where was the applicant planning to go?

Part 3, Item 3a1: Port-of-Entry where admitted to the United States. This is answered only if the applicant entered with an immigrant visa. (What city did the applicant arrive in? Indicate the type of port-of-entry, such as an airport, bridge, or tunnel.) 

Cost and Next Steps

The application fee is $450, which includes $85 for biometric services: fingerprinting, photographing, and capturing your signature. An appointment for these services will be established once the form has been processed. 

How Long Is the Wait for My New Card?

It can take between two to six months for the new card to arrive. Unfortunately, there’s no way to expedite it as all applications go through the same process. The progress of the application can be checked using the USCIS ELIS account.

Proof of Status Before the Card Arrives

Sometimes, proof of status is needed (e.g., travel and employment) before the card arrives. To obtain proof, take a passport to the biometrics appointment and request that an official stamp it indicating that you have permanent resident status and have filed for a new card. 

The Bottom Line

Replacing or renewing a green card is neither fast nor cheap; however, it is relatively simple for most. It is imperative to always have a copy of the current green card in the event the original is lost, stolen or destroyed.

If you have extraordinary factors, such as a criminal record, it may be best to consult an immigration lawyer.