After winning your case for cancellation of removal in immigration court (formally referred to as the Executive Office for Immigration Review or EOIR), you can start calling yourself a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR). However, only after you obtain your Permanent Resident Card (I-551 or “green card”) will you have physical proof of your LPR status. Such proof is useful for showing to employers, the Social Security office, and so on.
If you do everything right, USCIS will send you your card, by mail, within seven to 15 days of completing the required biometrics (fingerprinting).
However, the card won’t come to you automatically. In order to request and receive it as soon as possible, you will need to follow a few important steps. Let’s go through the process, starting from your last court hearing, so that you know what to expect.
At your final merits hearing, the immigration judge (IJ) will issue a final order approving your application for cancellation of removal and adjustment of status. This decision will be printed on a piece of paper with your name, alien (A)-number, and boxes the judge can use to “grant” or “deny” various types of relief from removal.
On your order, the IJ will check the box granting relief under the application number (Form EOIR-42B) and sign the decision. You and the attorney for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will both receive copies and the IJ will also keep the final decision for court records.
The DHS attorney will also give you a copy of instructions on how to take the next step and make an INFOPASS appointment at your local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and what to bring with you to the appointment so that USCIS can process your green card.
Following your win in immigration court, the DHS will send a copy of your A-file, including the final order granting you cancellation of removal, to the proper USCIS office. Because USCIS is part of a different agency, and functions separately from the EOIR, you need to alert it to the fact that you qualify for a green card and are now requesting documentation reflecting your change in legal status. You must make an appointment with USCIS in order to do this.
Waiting three days before scheduling this interview allows USCIS to pull your file and ask for any missing information required to process your green card. By the time you arrive for your INFOPASS appointment, USCIS is already prepared to order the correct legal document associated with your EOIR grant.
Due to increased efficiency, you can now receive your green card shortly after being granted cancellation of removal. If you have access to a computer, you can schedule an appointment at your nearest USCIS office through the online INFOPASS system. By waiting three days after the judge’s ruling, you are allowing time for USCIS to receive your A-file, process your request for immigration documents, and collect any remaining biometrics necessary for your card before you arrive at the INFOPASS appointment.
After verifying your identity, certain biographical information, and the IJ’s order granting you cancellation of removal, local USCIS offices now have the capacity to order your card immediately from a secure card-making facility and mail it to you.
You can use the three-day “wait” time to prepare copies of the final court order granting you cancellation of removal and permanent resident status. To be safe, bring the original and copies of the final order to the appointment at USCIS. Keep one for yourself.
Also bring the original and copies of any picture identification, such as your passport, driver’s license, and Employment Authorization Document (EAD), in case USCIS asks for these.
If you don’t have a computer with which to schedule the INFOPASS appointment, you can ask to borrow a friend’s or see if there is one available at your nearest public library. Just type www.infopass.uscis.gov into the space at the top of the computer and follow the prompts to make an appointment.
You can also go to the nearest USCIS office, stand in line, and ask one of the officers for help using the kiosk machines, if available, to schedule an INFOPASS appointment..
At your appointment at USCIS, you will have to fill out some basic biographical information, such as your name and address.
Write your full name as you want it to appear on your green card. Include any hyphenated surnames or suffix that may not have appeared in your court documents.
Also provide your current address at the appointment, if you have moved, or are planning to move, since your last court hearing, so that USCIS knows where to send your green card. See Nolo’s article “Moved during immigration court proceedings: Is EOIR-33 enough, or must I file AR-11” for details. USCIS will also collect your fingerprints or schedule you for the next available biometrics appointment if your background checks are not current.
USCIS will use the final court order and information provided at the INFOPASS appointment to generate your green card. The agency will also provide you with a tracking number so you can track the delivery of your green card.
Factoring in possible wait times and delay, a conservative estimate of the shortest time necessary to process your card is approximately three days after the ruling, plus seven to 15 days after your INFOPASS appointment for mail service, totaling (roughly) 20 days. Depending on your carrier, you can expect to see your green card two to three days after it has been mailed by USCIS.