Given the current delays by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, many green card renewal applicants have seen their estimated processing timelines come and go and they have yet to receive their new green cards. A green card is essential to show that the individual is a legal permanent resident and is thus legally allowed to work in the United States, return to the country after a trip abroad, and qualify for key benefits such as unemployment. At Lawit Law, we have received a number of calls from concerned immigrants who had timely filed their applications to renew their document or requested their naturalization. Applicants may be experiencing significant delays for a number of reasons, including the closing of Application Support Centers (where they would take your picture and fingerprints), the disruption caused by the end of the contracts with at least two companies that produce the physical green cards and work permits, the seemingly impending furloughs, and, of course, COVID-19.
If you are being affected by these delays, do not despair! Unless an immigration judge ends your status as a legal permanent resident and despite your physical green card expiring, you are still a legal permanent resident. Your status, unlike your green card, does not end after the card’s expiration date. If your green card is expiring and you need evidence of your immigration status, you may contact USCIS and request an “Infopass” appointment. These are short appointments where you can meet with an USCIS officer and request evidence of your current status. This would often times be on the form of an I-551 stamp on your passport, so make sure your passport is not expired! By the way, your green card is also an I-551! Just look in the back of the card!
The I-551 passport stamp is usually placed using red ink and is filled out with additional information (such as validity dates) and is something you can show your employer, Customs and Border Protection officers after a trip abroad, and any agency requesting evidence of your status. The challenge, however, may be to get your actual Infopass appointment. Given the current pandemic, you may be required to have a very pressing reason for USCIS to schedule your appointment. This could be an impeding emergency trip abroad or needing evidence of your status in order to keep your job.
If you are experiencing issues scheduling your Infopass appointment or being able to demonstrate your immigration status, make sure to contact an experienced and reputable immigration attorney.