A green card, often referred to as a permanent resident card or Form I-551, is issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). USCIS issues a green card to all individuals who file the proper paperwork, and meet the requirements to become a legal permanent resident. These individuals are allowed to work and live in the U.S.
Who is the USCIS?
USCIS is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Before 2003, USCIS was better known as Immigration and Naturalization Service. This agency is responsible for overseeing all immigration cases that allow immigrants to enter the U.S. legally.
After a green card is issued to eligible foreign nationals, they will hold legal status in the U.S. until they abandon or lose it. They may continue to live and work in the U.S.; they do not lose the right to live and work in America only because their green cards are expired. However, if a person is a permanent resident who is 18 or older, he or she does have to carry a valid, unexpired green card at all times.
Without a valid green card, they no longer have proof of their legal status. This will make it hard for them to apply for another job, apply for benefits; in some states, it may even make it difficult to renew or obtain a driver’s license or photo ID.
If they want to travel outside of the U.S., this will also be difficult. When traveling back into the U.S., they will need to present a valid, unexpired green card. Without one, the Customs and Border Patrol agents may not let them back into the country.
Legal permanent residents should apply to renew their green cards within 6 months of the card’s expiration date. They can apply to renew it even after it is already expired. USCIS will not punish someone for not renewing on time.
Why do I need to renew?
USCIS began issuing cards with 10-year expiration dates in 1989. This change allows the agency to add new card technologies. This makes it harder for people to make fake green cards.