Your green card is one of the most important documents you own. It confirms your status as a permanent resident of the US and allows you to prove your status to authorities. By law, you must carry a valid green card with you at all times. According to Section 264 of the INA (the Immigration and Nationality Act), “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 issued to him.” Failure to follow this law can make you guilty of a misdemeanor.
If your green card is lost, stolen, or damaged, it is important to apply for a replacement green card right away. This way, you have a green card or documentation with you when you need it. Having a green card is especially important if you plan to leave the United States for any reason. Not replacing your green card or renewing it as needed can make it difficult or impossible to reenter the United States once you’ve left.
In addition to replacing lost, stolen, or damaged green cards, it is important to replace a green card before it expires. While permanent residency status is permanent, green cards are not. Most green cards are issued for ten years, and after this period of time they must be renewed. Conditional green cards are usually valid or two years, although this can vary. When a conditional green card is about to expire, you will need to adjust your status to a permanent president and you will need to renew and replace your green card. When you renew your green card before it is about to expire, you will be issued a new green card through the mail. Your new card will generally be valid for another ten years.
The US government issues green cards for ten years at a time in order to help prevent fraud. By asking from permanent residents to renew their green card, the US government is better able to keep track of green card residents and green cards issued. As well, by making the green card valid for only ten years, the US government is also able to issue new green cards with additional security features.