If you are a US Permanent Resident, you will have an actual physical card identifying you as such, also commonly known as a “Green Card”. Each Green Card has your photograph on it, your Alien Registration Number, and also an expiry date. When your card expires, it does NOT mean that you have lost your STATUS. You still legally have the right to reside in the US as a Permanent Resident, but an expired Green Card nonetheless presents some real problems:
1. Difficulty Applying For A Job in the United States
One of the best things about having a Green Card is that you don’t need a prospective employer to sponsor a work permit (e.g. H1-B1) for you. You can work for any employer in the whole of the United States. But if your Green Card is expired, your employer cannot fill in the paperwork that is legally required of them by the Department of Homeland Security for all employees (i.e. Form I-9). This paperwork requires that they furnish your Green Card number and expiration date thereof as proof of identity and authorization to work in the United States. Other forms of identifying documents can be used in lieu of a Green Card, but if there are restrictions on them (e.g. your social security card states that you’re not eligible to work without INS permission), the requirements of this identification filing will not be met.
2. Difficulty Re-Entering the USA
You travel on your passport issued by the country of which you are a citizen/national. But you enter the United States on your Green Card. If it’s expired, you may not be permitted by immigration authorities at ports of entry to enter America. You could provide the immigration officer with other documentary proof of your resident status, but unless the officer is persuaded by that other documentary proof, it’s likely you won’t be permitted to enter the United States. In the best-case scenario, where you are indeed permitted to enter, you’re still likely to have a long wait as the immigration officer processes your entry.
3. Difficulty Applying for a Mortgage
Some commercial lenders/banks require that you provide proof of your right to reside in the US as a pre-requirement to applying for a loan. Each lender has its own set of rules and requirements, and its rare that it will make an exception for an expired Green Card. It would be a pity if you had found the home you wanted, only to be unable to secure a mortgage because of an expired Green Card. Again, the fact that your card is expired doesn’t mean your immigration status has expired. Most lenders, however, err on the side of caution and rely on the Green Card as the most reliable proof of your legal immigration status.
If Your Green Card Has Expired, Renew It Now!
The whole point of getting a Green Card is, for most people, to reside in the United States, and for the majority, this is only possible if they can work, buy a home, and be free to move in and out of the country. Some states also require that you produce a non-expired Green Card in order to get a driver’s license (even if a Social Security Number is most commonly used by DMVs). Some states may also request it when you apply for professional licenses (e.g. doctors, lawyers). Both of these are additional and major hurdles if you’re looking to work and live in the country.
While having an expired Green Card doesn’t impact your legal immigration status, it can really impact your life in real ways as set out above. Renewing your Green Card these days is actually a straightforward administrative process and can be done online at the USCIS site. Don’t wait to do it. Note, however, that depending on where you live, it may take up to six months to get your card renewed.