If you are a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., you should have a green card as evidence of your status. In fact, the law requires you to carry your green card with you at all times. And you will want to be able to show it if asked by an employer about your eligibility to work, or for purposes of returning to the United States after travel to another country.
Carrying your green card comes with risk, however. Your green card might be lost, stolen, or otherwise mutilated or destroyed. In any of these circumstances, you will need to apply for a new one.
Another circumstance that might impel you to get a replacement green card is if the information on it is inaccurate -- either because of a USCIS error or because of a change in your own life, most likely a name change.
Report all stolen green cards to the police. Green cards are a hot item, and there is always a possibility that yours will be stolen and sold. If this happens to you, be sure to file a police report. You may not get your card back, but when you apply for a replacement card, the report will help convince USCIS that you didn’t sell your own card.
Application Process for a Replacement Green Card
Applying for a new or replacement green card is done using Form I-90, issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The form is available at your local USCIS office, by mail from 800-870-3676, or on the I-90 page of the USCIS website. You can also submit this form electronically, or through the USCIS website -- though you will still have to mail in the supporting documentation, as follows:
- a copy of your green card or (if you no longer have it) other proof of your identity; unless you are filing because of a USCIS error, in which case you must send your ORIGINAL green card containing the wrong information
- a police report copy, if you filed one, and
- evidence of any name change, such as a copy of a court order, and
- evidence of your actual information (such as a copy of a birth certificate containing the correct spelling of your name), if filing to correct a USCIS error.
You will most likely need to pay a fee for this application, which was $450 in early 2014 (but always check the Forms page of the USCIS website for the latest fees). That amount includes an $85 fee for biometrics (fingerprinting, photographing, and the electronic capture of your signature). But if the error causing your need for a new card was made by USCIS, you do NOT need to pay any part of this fee.
Form I-90 comes with a fairly complete set of instructions, and you can read more on the I-90 page of the USCIS website.