Renewing Green Cards With No Expiration Date
December 5, 2007

On August 22, 2007, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) issued a proposed regulation that would require approximately 750,000 lawful permanent residents (LPRs) with permanent resident cards (aka “green cards” or Form I-551) that do not have an expiration date on them, to replace them for modern cards with expiration dates and other security features. Although the public comment period ended on September 21, a final regulation has yet to be issued, and this proposed requirement has yet to take effect.

As many of you know, permanent resident cards are issued to LPRs of the United States as evidence that they are authorized to live and work in the United States and reenter after international travel. Since August 1989 and up to the present, these cards have been issued with a 10-year validity, and residents are required to renew them every ten (10) years. However, between 1979 and 1989, permanent resident were issued cards without expiration dates and up to this time, these residents have not been required to replace them. Thus, it is the renewal/replacement of cards issued between 1979 and 1989 that the proposed regulation seeks to facilitate. (Cards that were issued before 1979 have already been the subject of a regulation requiring replacement.)

Once the regulation is implemented and the requirement goes into effect, USCIS will establish an application process and filing period (120 days) during which time all LPRs with green cards that do not expire will be required to file an Application to Replace Lawful Permanent Resident Card (Form I-90) and pay the fee of $370.00. As part of the application process, residents will be required to provide current biographic information as well as photographs and fingerprints.

The proposed regulations will not only update USCIS’ records with current biographic data, photographs, biometrics and background checks of current LPRs, but will also replace the outdated cards with cards containing greater security features. Importantly, impacted LPR’s with criminal convictions in their background are advised to consult with an attorney to discuss possible deportation consequences they may face as a result of this renewal procedure.

Critics of the proposed regulation have complained that the proposed 120 day renewal period is far too short and does not allow adequate time for all those affected to be informed of the change and ultimately comply with the new requirement. Additionally, there is concern the USCIS will be barraged by hundreds of thousands of applications at the same time, resulting in massive backlogs and delays. Critics have also argued that the $370.00 application fee is unfair. “If finalized and implemented as proposed, the rule would be another glaring example of the government imposing unreasonable demands at a high price on immigrants,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said. “This is an absurd way to go about treating people who have followed all the rules.”

There has also been confusion regarding the current validity of the cards in question and the status of those carrying these cards. However, on December 11, 2007, Christopher Bentley, the Press Secretary for USCIS recently released a statement saying “[d]espite rumors to the contrary, ‘green cards’ (I-551) with no expiration dates are still valid, and lawful permanent residents carrying those cards will continue to received all appropriate benefits. These cards will remain valid until the implementation of the final rule addressing this issue.”

Again, it is important to note that as of the date of this article, the proposed requirement has yet to take effect . However, any LPR in possession of a green card without an expiration date is indeed eligible to file for a new card at this time if they so choose, or alternatively, may simply proceed with the filing of an Application for Naturalization.

Copyright © 2007-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois