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The Green Card has its limits, what to do when you hit them. Photo by: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Emergency travel and dealing with immigration

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The Green Card has its limits, what to do when you hit them. Photo by: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“I have a green card, but it expired in December of last year. I totally overlooked this. I have since gone to the USCIS website to submit an application for a replacement, and I have a receipt number from USCIS.

“But now I need to travel to Ireland for a family emergency as my mother is very ill. I was told by USCIS and also Customs and Border Patrol that having my receipt number and old green card should suffice for my re-entry back to the U.S., but that this couldn’t be guaranteed. It would also depend on the customs officer I would be speaking with on my way back. Both offices said that to be safe, I should get a stamp in my passport from USICS. But the next INFO PASS appointment isn’t for two weeks, and I need to go now. From what I understand, walk-ins are not permitted.

“What do you think I should do? Can I travel with my old card and receipt, or is there anything else I should be doing?”

Even though your physical green card has expired – all green cards are issued for a period of 10 years before they have to be replaced – your status as a permanent resident of the U.S. has not.

Having said that, it would not be wise to travel abroad with your old green card and USCIS receipt number. Such a scenario would likely result in delays and extreme frustration which is possible to avoid before you travel.

INFO PASS on the USCIS website allows for customers to make appointments to speak to a representative in person at their local office. It is true that appointments are usually not available on a next-day basis, but USCIS recognizes that emergency travel is sometimes inevitable, and is prepared to make accommodations for those needing to depart the U.S. in a hurry.

We checked in with Katie Tichacek, who heads up media relations for USCIS in New York. Though USCIS never comments on individual cases, Tichacek said that the agency makes “every effort” to accommodate customers with genuine emergencies.

“If a person has a valid emergency, they can get a stamp in their passport without an INFO PASS appointment.   We advise them to come to our office at 26 Federal Plaza in downtown Manhattan, to the first floor information area, and bring proof of the emergency (a doctor’s letter or medical records, for example),” she told the Irish Voice.

“If the applicant has filed an I-90 and has proof of that filing, they may get a stamp for a year.  If an I-90 was not filed, the stamp would be valid for only 60 days.”

The I-90 is the paperwork that must be completed for the replacement green card. Shortly afterwards the applicant is notified with an appointment date to submit fingerprints and photographs. But clearly, emergencies sometimes happen and people such as yourself aren’t in a position to wait for that date.

Here’s another suggestion that you should think about when you return to the U.S. As you’ve been a permanent resident for 10 years now, you are eligible to become a U.S. citizen. Doing so would eliminate the need to replace a green card, and you could travel freely abroad at any time, for however long you wish.

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