When you become a permanent resident in the U.S. you receive a 10-year green card. After that, when your 10-year green card is expired or will expire within the next 6 months, it's time to renew it. Now, before explaining the requisites to renew the green card and the documents that are required to complete the process, it is important to note that an expired green card doesn't mean you're no longer a lawful U.S. permanent resident. The green card is only the document that demonstrates your legal status in the United States. As long as you don't leave the U.S. establishing your residence anywhere else, you keep that status for life.
When do I renew the Green Card?
According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, permanent residents with a 10-year green card are required to file for a new card at 6 months before it's set to expire. Now, applicants are discouraged to apply more than 6 months before because these kinds of applications are usually denied or rejected by USCIS, and no refund is made.
What do you do if you are outside the United States?
If you're outside the United States and your green card is about to expire within 6 months, it is important to pay attention to the length of time you spend overseas. If you will be able to return within 1 year of leaving and before your card expires, file your green card renewal as soon as you return to the United States. However, if your green card is expired, and you did not apply for renewal before you left the United States, you probably need to contact the nearest U.S. consulate, international USCIS field office, or U.S. port of entry (POE), and let them know about your situation before filing for renewal. If it happens that you stayed outside the United States for more than one year you may need to file for an SB-1 visa. This decision will depend on each person's circumstances and the ties they have with the U.S, among others.
If you have not left yet...
If you have plans to travel outside the U.S. be mindful of your green card's expiration date. The best is to plan ahead to be sure you meet the renewal requirements. If your green card is expired you may experience problems he trying to enter the country. This situation could prevent you from re-entering the United States or getting a new job. Finally, having an unexpired green card is important before proceeding with a petition for naturalization.
Ok... How do I renew my green card?
The first step is to complete Form I-90 the “Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card”. This form is also used if you lost your green card or if it was stolen. The green card renewal process can be completed online or by mail. However, to do it online make sure you create an account with the USCIS and you don't forget your password. Otherwise, you may not be able to complete the petition or to receive notices. Now, the fact that you do it online does not exempt you from signing the forms and scanning and uploading all relevant documentation. Finally, you will also need to have a credit card to complete the payment.
If you can't pay the USCIS fee you cannot complete your application for renewal online.
What happens if I have a two-year green card?
Those residents who got their green through marriage and the marriage was shorter than two years receive a conditional green card that expires within two years. In this case, the resident has to complete a different applicant. The resident needs to file a petition to remove the conditions on the green card. If successful, the applicant will receive a 10-year green card, which one expired must be replaced.
Documents Needed to Renew Your Green Card
Depending on the case, this may change. However, applicants usually need to provide a copy of their expired or soon-to-expire green card ad the applicable form. However, in cases where the green card has been lost or stolen, the applicant is required to provide other documentation.
Green Card Renewal Processing Time
It is impossible to know with absolute certainty, how long it will take to receive the new green card. Once USCIS receives the request to renew the green card, the applicant can expect to wait between 3 and 12 months for it to be processed. In the meanwhile, if the resident needs to travel the receipt notice serves as evidence of the legal status of the green card applicant. Additionally, after an application to renew the green card has been received, within two to three months, the applicant receives a notice of a scheduled date for a biometrics appointment. A biometrics appointment is an appointment to take the applicant's fingerprints, photo, and signature. Finally, to keep track of the petition the applicant can always check online using his receipt number.