Your Permanent Resident Card, known more colloquially as a green card, gives you permission to reside and work in the US permanently. It also serves as your primary form of identification and proof of permanent resident status when re-entering the country after international travel.
But what if your green card is due to expire soon, and your renewal application is still being processed? Can you still travel abroad? The green card renewal process through filing Form I-90 can sometimes take over eight months.
If your card expires before the renewal is processed, you may be stuck without any form of valid proof of permanent residence. Attempting to travel internationally without proper documentation can lead to denied re-entry, fines, and other immigration complications.
However, there are ways you can travel abroad if you need to while awaiting your green card renewal.
Consequences of Traveling Abroad with an Expired or Expiring Green Card
Traveling overseas with an expired or expiring green card can have severe repercussions:
- You may be denied re-entry into the United States at the border if you cannot present valid proof of permanent resident status. Border officers will not permit you to enter the country until you obtain valid documentation.
- You may be subject to fines and additional delays for attempting to enter with an expired green card. In the best-case scenario, it’s an inconvenience; in the worst-case scenario, it could impact pending immigration applications.
- Traveling after your green card has already expired could terminate your renewal application. Leaving the country with an expired card indicates you have dropped your permanent resident status.
- If you have a pending green card renewal application but leave without proper documentation, that application will be automatically terminated. It would be necessary to start the whole process all over again.
As you can see, it is extremely risky to travel abroad if your green card expires before you receive the renewed card. Always maintain valid proof of permanent residence any time you leave and re-enter the United States.
Temporary Proof Options for Traveling Abroad
If your green card renewal has not yet been processed, but you need to take an international trip, you do have some temporary proof options:
Receipt Notice Along with Expired Green Card
After applying to renew your green card, you will receive a receipt notice (Form I-797) from USCIS indicating your application is being processed. If you applied within 12 months of your green card expiring, this receipt notice, along with your expired green card, can act as temporary proof of permanent resident status for one year from the expiration date.
The receipt specifically states it “provides evidence of your lawful permanent resident status” for this temporary 12-month period. As long as you have the receipt and your expired green card, you can use these documents together to re-enter the United States.
Obtaining a USCIS I-551 Stamp or Sticker
If your green card is already expired and no longer within that 12-month receipt validity period, or if your card is lost/stolen, you may need to make an appointment at your local USCIS office.
Explain your situation — that you applied for renewal but need to travel urgently before receiving the new card. Bring supporting documentation such as:
- Expired green card (or a valid passport if your card is lost)
- Renewal receipt notice
- Proof of urgent need to travel, such as plane tickets or doctor’s note
If you can demonstrate pending renewal and urgent travel plans, the USCIS officer may be able to provide temporary proof of permanent residence. This could involve:
- Putting a sticker on your expired green card extending validity for 12 months
- Placing an I-551 stamp in your passport as proof of permanent residency
With either the sticker or stamp, you have temporary proof to travel abroad and return during your renewal period.
Applying for Advance Parole Travel Document
If your green card expires soon and you know you need to take one or more international trips while awaiting renewal, you can apply for an advance parole travel document using Form I-131. This allows you to remain a permanent resident eligible for re-entry even while your renewal application is pending.
To apply for advance parole:
- Submit Form I-131 to USCIS along with a copy of your green card renewal receipt notice, two passport photos, and your photo ID.
- Once approved, you will receive a re-entry travel document that is valid for one year. As long as you return within this validity period, you remain eligible for lawful permanent resident status.
- If your advance parole document expires and your green card is still pending renewal, you can file Form I-131 again to renew your advance parole as long as your renewal application is still being processed.
Advance parole allows peace of mind if you need to take multiple international trips while awaiting your green card renewal. As long as you obtain one of these valid travel documents, you can come and go as needed without jeopardizing your green card status.
Let Pride Immigration Guide You Through Green Card Renewal Travel Plans
While a pending green card renewal can complicate travel plans, you do have options to maintain lawful permanent resident status and re-enter the United States while your application is being processed.
Be sure to plan ahead and understand your options for temporary travel documents and proof. Never attempt to travel abroad without valid documentation during renewal — doing so can seriously impact your immigration status and eligibility to remain in the US.
Whenever you need to travel internationally but have a pending green card renewal application, consult with Pride Immigration early in the process.
Our team of accredited immigration representatives can advise you on maintaining lawful permanent resident status, help with applications for advance parole or temporary proof, check processing times, and work with you to ensure you have the valid documentation required for smooth travels while you await your green card renewal.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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