It is a happy day when a foreign national becomes a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States and gets a Permanent Resident Card, commonly referred to as a “green card.” Permanent resident status provides important rights, including the right to live in the United States permanently (subject to not engaging in conduct that could make the individual eligible for removal) and the right to work in any position except those that are restricted to U.S. citizens for security reasons.

A far less happy experience is the long waiting time after filing Form I-90 to obtain a replacement green card. Green cards typically expire after 10 years, and once they expire, the holder loses the right to obtain new employment in the United States and to travel abroad.

And the processing time for applications for replacement cards has been long, sometimes for nearly two years. When the holder applied for an extension, the expiration date would automatically be extended for 12 months. But if the processing time was more than 12 months, the green card would expire.

Effective September 26, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has extended this automatic “grace period” for renewals from 12 months to 24 months, which should be sufficient to cover the current waiting periods.

To provide proof of the 24-month extension, the USCIS will send an updated receipt notice (Form I-797, Notice of Action) to green card holders with newly filed Form I-90s, indicating that their green cards will remain valid for an additional 24 months. For those who already have pending I-90 applications as of September 26, the USCIS began printing and will issue amended receipt notices showing the 24-month extension.

The receipt notice, when presented with the expired green card, may be used to prove employment authorization for I-9 purposes and to authorize reentry into the United States after foreign travel.

(NOTE: Employers are prohibited from requiring reverification of employees’ I-9s based on the fact that the employees’ green cards have expired.)

Impact on green card holders and employers

The extended grace period is good news for both green card holders and their employers.

For the holder, as noted above, the 24-month extension should give the USCIS enough time to issue a replacement green card before the original card expires. In addition to needing an unexpired green card for new employment and for foreign travel, an unexpired green card may be required for a professional license, a driver’s license, or a mortgage.

As for employers, the extension will allow them to bring on green card holders during the extended grace period as new hires. Moreover, the updated receipt plus the “expired” green card will satisfy employers’ I-9 compliance requirements.

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