Can I Travel With An Expired Green Card?
Most green card holders don’t realize that traveling outside of the U.S. with an expired green card can be risky, if not downright dangerous. With travel ban concerns still fresh in today’s headlines, taking a risk like this is not advised. Better yet, this risk is totally avoidable if you are diligent about keeping your green card valid and up to date.
Aside from putting yourself and your loved ones at risk while traveling, many airlines will simply not allow you to board an airplane with an expired green card. That said, on rare occasions, some airlines may accept an expired green card if you also have a “Notice of Action” (Form I-797) that provides proof that you have recently filed Form I-90 to renew or replace your expired, lost, or damaged green card. On the off chance that they do allow you to use your expired green card, they will likely require that you also present a valid passport prior to boarding. Ultimately, this depends on airline policy. Either way, it is not wise to take this unnecessary risk.
Most green card holders do not realize that your ability to re-enter the U.S. is entirely at the sole discretion of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers stationed at the airport or border crossing. In fact, Customs and Border Protection officers are authorized to refuse entry to anyone that is unable to provide proof that their entry to the United States is lawful. For lawful permanent residents, this means that in most cases you will need to present your valid, unexpired green card to be readmitted into the United States.
For this reason alone, it is not advisable to travel without valid proof of your U.S. permanent residency. If you have recently applied to renew your green card, but have not yet received it, you can apply for a temporary I-551 passport stamp by making an appointment at your local USCIS office. This is not a quick and easy process and can take days or weeks depending on the USCIS office you visit. Wait times for this process vary and are not easily predictable. If your travel is time sensitive, this is not your best option.
Can I re-enter the U.S with an expired Green Card?
The answer is complicated. To re-enter the United States, the Customs & Border Protection officers will require proof of your lawful permanent residence in the U.S. To be clear, an expired green card is not considered proof of your lawful permanent residence. If you try to re-enter the U.S. with an expired green card, your admittance to the United States will be at the Border Patrol officer’s discretion. And if the officer permits you to re-enter the U.S. with an expired green card, you should expect a significant delay and some hefty reentry fees (typically $585 or more). In the absolute worst-case scenario, you could be detained or outright refused entry to the U.S. Do not take this unnecessary risk, it is simply not worth the possible consequences.
If you or someone you know is interested in checking their eligibility to quickly apply for a green card or renew/replace an expired green card, our immigration resource center is a great place to find up to date information and useful resources.
Additionally, if your case is more complex and you would like to speak with a licensed immigration attorney, you can learn more about the benefits of an initial consultation before deciding on the best path for you here .