Many people are surprised to learn that their green cards have expiration dates. This is especially confusing because technically speaking one’s permanent resident status is “permanent” (unless they do something that would cause them to lose this status if, for example, they commit certain crimes or live overseas for too long).
The reality is that the physical green card that proves your U.S. residence and allows you to work and travel does expire every ten years and you should take steps to renew the card within six months of its expiration or as soon as possible by filling out and submitting a Form I-90 with supporting documents and fees to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service.
Consideration for Renewing:
If you’ve lived and worked in the US without taking too many trips abroad and without running into legal problems along the way then you’re probably safe to apply to renew your green card. But, you should definitely consider consulting with an immigration attorney if there are “red flags” in your history because the renewal process will require you to submit to a background check and answer certain questions about your background. If any of these “red flags” make you deportable from the United States, you could be placed in removal proceedings and lose your permanent residence (or at least have to fight to keep it).
Alternatives to Renewing:
If you are ready and eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship, you can often submit the N-400 naturalization application instead of renewing your green card as many local USCIS offices do not require you to file an I-90 renewal application first (but you should always check!). But, if you need to change jobs or travel outside the US (or your local office requires the renewal application) then you might have to apply for a renewal first before applying for US citizenship.
Conditional Permanent Residents cannot use Form I-90 to remove Conditions Conditional Permanent Residents cannot use Form I-90 because their card AND their status are valid for two years unless they take timely steps to remove these conditions. These folks must file either a Joint (with their spouse) I-751 application to remove conditions or, for marriages that did not survive the two-year mark, an I-751 application with a waiver request showing that they entered the marriage in good faith, but it ended in divorce, they were abused, or they would suffer hardship if forced to return to their home country.