For permanent residents, a green card is an essential document. It serves as proof of immigration status and allows long-term residents to travel outside the U.S. without a visa. Unfortunately, green cards can be lost or stolen, in which case they must be replaced as soon as possible.
If you are a long-term resident of the United States, and your green card has been lost or stolen, it’s important that you take quick action. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to obtain a replacement card. In addition, you may need to obtain a transportation letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This document will allow you to travel internationally until your new green card arrives.
A Transportation Letter, also known as Form I-131A, confirms that you are lawfully present in the United States and can be used when traveling abroad instead of your physical green card. This document will allow you to re-enter the U.S., even if your green card was lost or stolen while you were abroad. To obtain a Transportation Letter, you must have had your green card for at least one year prior to its loss or theft.
1. Obtaining a Transportation Letter- Your green card has been lost or stolen, what should you do? USCIS can issue a transportation letter at no cost that will allow you to travel outside of the U.S. until your new green card arrives in the mail.
To obtain this letter, simply make an appointment with USCIS and bring two forms of identification with you to prove your identities such as a state-issued driver’s license or identification card, and evidence that proves why you need the transportation letter (such as an airline ticket).
It’s important to note that without this document, customs officials may not permit you to board an international flight back into the U.S., even if you have other valid documents such as a passport from another country
2. Replacing Your Green Card- Once you have obtained a transportation letter from USCIS, if possible, it’s important that you apply for a replacement green card immediately upon returning from abroad so that all of your documentation is up-to-date when traveling outside of the U.S.
The process for obtaining a replacement green card depends on whether you are still within the original validity period for your current green card or have exceeded it; however, regardless of which situation applies, there is an application fee associated with requesting this document and processing times vary depending on circumstances such as how soon after reporting the loss/theft that one applies for their replacement ID document(s).
Process of Applying for an Employment-Sponsored Green Card
To apply for an employment-sponsored green card, you must first obtain a job offer from a U.S.-based employer who is willing to sponsor your application.
Once you have secured a job offer, your employer must then file Form I-140 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
After Form I-140 has been filed by your employer and approved by USCIS, you will be able to start the application process for an employment-sponsored green card by filing Form I-485 with USCIS.
You will need to provide detailed information about yourself on Form I-485, as well as proof of identity and evidence that you are eligible to receive a green card through employment sponsorship.
Finally, after filing Form I–485 with USCIS, you will attend an interview at a local USCIS office where they will review all of your paperwork before making a final decision about whether or not you are eligible for an employment-sponsored green card.
If this is your first time applying for a green card and it has been lost or stolen before receiving it in the mail, then contact USCIS immediately and submit appointment request through their website. At this appointment, they will review your application and help determine the best approach moving forward toward replacing it as quickly as possible so that you may continue living in the US legally with all necessary documentation present.
You should also read the instructions on the back of the application form. The instructions will tell you what to do next.
Losing or having your green card stolen can be stressful but by taking quick action—such as applying for a transportation letter from USCIS—you can ensure safe reentry into the United States while waiting on your new document(s).
Safely is key so don’t forget that seeking help from USCIS regarding obtaining travel documents should be part of any plan!