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 2/27/2017, set to expire on 7/31/2019 (though still in use in early 2021). 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 nonetheless.
(The only people who should panic at a past expiration date are "conditional residents," whose green cards show 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 (the 2017 version).
Part I. Information About You. This opening section is largely self explanatory. First, you will need to enter your A number (found on your green card and previous immigration paperwork), your USCIS online account number (don't worry if you don't have one; many people don't), and your full name.
Don't neglect to 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 someone else. That person's name should go on line 6.a. 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 lawful permanent resident (the regular sort, covered in Section A of the form), 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; also covered in Section A of the form), or a conditional resident (in which case you need to go to Section B of the form, 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 for the form.
For instance, if you were to choose Section A, Item 2.h.2, "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 will 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 3.a 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 3.a.1 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 your answer is 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 portion 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 on this application; though you may want to mention any accommodations that would help with that, just in case.)
Part 5: Applicant's Statement, Contact Information, Certification, 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.
Part 6: Interpreter's Contact Information, Certification, and Signature. If you had help with translating this form so that you could understand the English, the interpreter will need to provide information here and sign.
Part 7: Contact Information, Declaration, and Signatur of the Person Preparing this Application, if Other Than the Applicant. If an attorney, paralegal, notario, or other type of legal consultant prepared this form for you, that person must fill in and sign this section.
Filling out 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.
In early 2021, the fees were $455 for the application and $85 for biometrics. However, USCIS plans to change these, to $415 for the main application if filed by paper and $405 if filed online; and $30 for biometrics. Originally, these fees were set to change on October 2, 2020, but lawsuits have put the change on hold for the moment. (In any case, it's wise to always check the Forms page of the USCIS website for the latest fees.)
Also in early 2021, owing to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, all USCIS offices were backed up or in some cases closed to in-person visits, including the support centers doing biometrics. Expect major delays until offices return to regular schedules or other procedures can be developed.
Form I-90 may be filed and paid for online by creating a USCIS account or mailed to USCIS. The address is on the website. Filing electronically can be convenient, but note that it's not just filing the form itself you will have to deal with: You will also need to upload your supporting documents electronically.