If your green card (the card showing that you are a U.S. lawful permanent resident) is about to expire or you have lost it, or if it has been stolen or destroyed, you will need to apply for a new one. Not only is this card a convenient way to prove your identity as well as your eligibility to work in the U.S. and return to the U.S. after foreign travel, but the law requires you to carry your green card with you at all times.
This article will explain how to fill out the version of Form I-90 issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on 12/23/2016, expiring 7/31/2019. It is available for free download on the I-90 page of its website.
U.S. green cards expire every ten years. It’s best to plan ahead and apply for renewal when that expiration date on your green card is six months into the future. If that date has already passed, don’t panic. You are still a permanent resident. But apply as soon as possible.
(The only people who should panic are “conditional residents,” whose green card shows a two-year expiration date – their status really does expire at the end of the two years, unless they take steps to become conditional residents, as explained in Marriage-Based Conditional Residents: When and How to Apply for a Permanent Green Card and EB-5 Investor Visa.
Now let's look at the various questions on Form I-90.
Part I. Information About You. This opening section is largely self explanatory. You will need to enter your full name, and mention any name changes since getting your green card. This is important, so that USCIS can both check your immigration records and enter the correct name on your new card. You’ll also need to attach evidence of any name changes since you received your green card, such as a court order or, if your name change was the result of marriage or divorce, the certificate or decree showing this.
Question 6 asks for your mailing address. If you don’t have a stable address or don’t trust the mail delivery there, you can have USCIS send correspondence to you in “care of” (“C/O”) someone else. That person’s name should go on the C/O line. But if you choose that option, you will need to put the address of the actual place where you live in Question 7. (If you simply put your home address in Question 6, you can leave Question 7 blank.)
For Question 14, “Class of Admission” you will need to enter the type of visa or remedy through which you got your permanent residence. It’s easiest to use the code for this; you will find yours listed under "Category" if you have a current-style green card. Some common codes include “AS6” for asylee; "IR1" for the spouse of a U.S. citizen; "DV1" for diversity visa lottery immigrants; "E11" for priority workers with extraordinary ability; “E21” for a professional holding an advanced degree or of exceptional ability; “E31” for a skilled worker;” "IR2" for the child of a U.S. citizen; "RE" (plus a number) for various types of refugees; and so on.
Question 15, "Date of Admission," asks for the date when you were approved for U.S. permanent residence or entered the U.S. on an immigrant visa. Check your green card for this date, under "Resident Since."
Part 2: Application Type. In Question 1, you need to check a box stating whether you either are a permanent resident (the regular sort), a permanent resident in commuter status (meaning you live on near the U.S. border in either Canada or Mexico, but have a special green card allowing travel back and forth) or a conditional resident (in which case you need to go to Section B, which offers a shorter list of choices, reflecting the fact that you cannot use this form to deal with the expiration of your card).
Whether you use Section A or B, pick one and only one box, to tell USCIS why you need a new card. Also note that the category you choose will determine what documents you need to include with your application, which documents are described in USCIS’s instructions to go with the form. For instance, if you were to choose Section A, Item H2, “I am a commuter who is taking up actual residence in the United States,” the instructions would tell you that you need to provide proof of your U.S. address, and explain what types of documents will work for this.
Part 3: Processing Information.
This asks various questions about your receipt of U.S. residence.
Question 1 asks where you applied for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status. This refers to either the U.S. consulate or USCIS office in the U.S. where you were approved for a green card. Your answer to Question 2 is likely to be the same as to Question 1.
Question 3a asks where in the U.S. you were heading when you applied for your green card. So, for instance, if you came from China, landed in San Francisco, and gave the officer an address in Vallejo, California, you would put Vallejo, California here.Question 3a1 asks about the port of entry where you arrived after receiving your immigrant visa. So if you were approved for a visa in China but your plane landed in San Francisco, you would enter San Francisco here.
Question 4 asks whether you have ever been in proceedings in immigration court. Green card holders can be deported from the U.S. for various reasons, such as commission of crimes, as described in Grounds of Deportability: When Legal U.S. Residents Can Be Removed. Presumably you have regained a right to U.S. residency, or you should not be filling out this form (at least, not without an attorney's guidance.)
If you answer yes to Question 5, which seeks to find out whether you have abandoned your U.S. residence by making your home in another country, you should absolutely see an experienced immigration attorney before continuing with your I-90 application. (See Keeping Your Green Card After You Get It for more information on abandonment of residence.)
The Biographic Information of this section should be self-explanatory. Just make sure your answers are consistent with what you've provided on previous immigration applications.
Part 4: Accommodations for Individuals With Disabilities and/or Impairments. This portion of the application ensures that people who need extra support to get through the application process can get it. You will, for instance, be called in for fingerprints, so if you have a disability or impairment that makes that difficult, and a particular accommodation can be arranged to make it easier, list it here. (You are unlikely to be called in for an interview, however; though you may want to mention any accommodations that would help with that, just in case.)
Part 5: Applicant's Statement, Contact Information, Acknowledgment of Appointment at USCIS Service Center, and Signature. This section serves to impress upon applicants that they need to know what they are signing, even if using an attorney or interpreter. You must sign and date your application and include ways to reach you. If you forget, USCIS will return it to you for completion.
Filling out the form I-90 is not the end of your task when applying for a renewal or replacement green card. You will also need to submit supporting evidence, as described in detail within the USCIS instructions.
Most applicants will need to pay a filing fee for their new card. The exception is if USCIS made a mistake; for example, it never sent you the card, or it sent you a card with a misspelled name or other wrong information. You also do not need to pay the fee if you are turning 14 and need to register but your card will not expire before you turn 16.
Most applicants will also need to pay a biometrics or fingerprinting fee, depending on the reason for applying. If you never received your card, you do not have to pay the biometrics fee.
As of December 2016, the fees were $455 for the application and $85 for biometrics, but always check the Forms page of the USCIS website for the latest fees.
Form I-90 may be filed and paid for via the Internet using a system called USCIS ELIS or mailed to USCIS. The address is on the website. Filing electronically is convenient for payment purposes, but it’s not a one-step process: You will need to send your supporting documents by mail.