Current styles of green cards remain valid for 10 years as U.S. legal permanent residents (LPRs) renew the cards each decade to receive the latest version and security updates. While failing to renew a green card prior to its expiration doesn’t affect legal permanent status, maintaining a valid green card holds open avenues of opportunity while also keeping potential problems at bay.
Legally speaking, immigrants who hold legal permanent status and who are 18-years-old or older “shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him,” according to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) citation of Section 264 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Failure to act in compliance with the provision “shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Holding an expired or otherwise invalid green card potentially creates problems for legal permanent residents as prosecutors hold discretion to press criminal misdemeanor charges. A criminal record sends the wrong message for future applications of citizenship or other such documents.
Some previous styles of green cards, which are no longer valid, contained no expiration date. Under the new card styles, USCIS uses technological security measures. By requiring a renewal every 10 years, the agency maintains card integrity across the system as a whole “so that they can upgrade the card with newest technologies to deter forgeries,” immigration attorney BoBi Ahn told a reporter for a legal publication.
However, requesting a green card renewal after expiration becomes especially problematic if the card expires while outside national borders. “If your card expires while you are abroad,” according to the article, “you may have difficulty re-entering the U.S.”
It’s important to note that the legal permanent status of green card holders allows for considerably more leeway in terms of regulatory requirements than what’s required for those holding conditional permanent residency. Conditional residency, often a status used by foreign nationals who are engaged or married to U.S. citizens, expires after 2 years. Unlike LPR status, not only do conditional resident cards expire, the immigrant status also expires.
In terms of the bottom line, legal permanent residents with expired green cards still maintain their legal status, but filing a Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card still needs to happen in terms of upholding U.S. immigration law obligations. Green card holders can begin the renewal process within 6 months of the expiration date or as soon as possible after the expiration date passes.