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Expired Green Card?  Do you know what will happen if you travel with an expired Green Card?

Of course, it is best that you not allow the date on your Green Card to expire. You can file to renew your Green Card with the immigration office called the USCIS. It is a four page application and will cost you a $450 filing fee.

This is a good time to talk to an Immigration Attorney because you will be required to have your fingerprints taken for an F.B.I background check. If you have been arrested since you received your prior Green Card, it may trigger a deportation hearing, now called a removal proceeding.

The fact that your card expires does NOT mean your permanent resident status has expired. The Green Card is proof of your status as a permanent residence in the United States. One problem with an expired Green Card is that other people, who may even be police or an airline worker, may not understand that you still have status to live and work in the U.S.

But what happens if your Green Card expires while you are traveling out of the United States?

Well, as mentioned, you have not lost your status just because your card expired. With your expired Green Card, however, your airline may not allow you to board a plane to travel back to the United States.

Transportation Letter

You can apply to the U.S. Consulate the Country you are in for what is called a Transportation Letter.

This letter should allow you to board an airline with an expired Green Card. This should then get you back to the U.S. Border, and the Customs and Border Patrol will, hopefully, allow you back into the U.S.

Over Six Months

If you plan to stay outside the U.S. for over six months, and have a Green Card, you should apply for a reentry permit BEFORE you live the U.S. This will typically cover you for up to two years and you should have fewer problems reentering the County after an extended absence.

If you have stayed away for over six months without a reentry permit, you should be prepared for what will greet you at the United States border.   Customs and Border Patrol may question whether you have abandoned your permanent residence because you have stayed outside the U.S. over six months.

You will need to have documentation that you maintained ties to the U.S. while you were away. This would include having bank accounts in the U.S., having a car, renting or owing a house, U.S. credit cards and so on. Also, whether your wife and children were in the U.S. while you were away and whether you have continuously filed U.S. taxes while you were away.   Really anything that shows your ties to the U.S., the more the better.

Over A Year

It would be best to get back to the U.S. within 12 months if you possibly can, just to be sure to maintain your permanent resident status. After you are away for over 12 months, Customs may more assertively attempt to allege that you have abandoned your permanent residence. You may need to apply for a Returning Resident Visa at the U.S. Consulate.   This will also require supporting documentation. By getting this Visa approved, you have more certainty as you come back to the U.S.

After a year, when you return to the border, Customs and Border Patrol may allow you into the U.S., they may give you a notice of removal, formerly known as deportation, or they could also turn you away.

If given a removal notice, you can later contest your removal from within the U.S.   Of course all this could then effect your ability to travel to and from other Countries in the meantime.

Some people figure that they should just get a B-2 tourist visa because it may seem like a quicker way back into the. U.S. But this could also be evidence against you that you have abandoned your permanent residence in the U.S. After all, if you are a permanent resident, you would not need a visitor’s visa.

For the future, when you know you may be staying outside the U.S. for a long period, you can apply for a reentry permit to preserve your ability to reenter the United States as a permanent resident after long trips to other Countries.

This can be approved for up to two years at a time. You will want to always be mindful of maintaining your status in the future. Customs and Border Patrol also has a lot of discretion in who they allow into the U.S. Think ahead of time and you will save yourself a lot grief.