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For many, obtaining a green card can be a long and frustrating process for permanent resident status. Waiting months and up to a year in processing times for renewals can be equally as frustrating when your immigration status is in the balance. To legally work and reside in the United States as a foreign national, you need to have an active green card at all times.
When it takes months to obtain a renewal, there may be periods that you don’t have an active green card at all. When that happens, the I-551 stamp comes in handy.
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What is an I-551 Stamp?
The I-551 stamp is a temporary residence stamp that proves the residency of foreign nationals. Think of it as a bridge between obtaining a renewed green card and ridding yourself of your expired or expiring one. You can also obtain an I-551 if you have lost your at-the-time valid green card for resident status.
Green cards are valid for 10 years, and once those years go by, that bridge will have to be built. The stamp is then placed inside of the lawful foreign national’s passport. If you don’t have any proof of residency, you may be deported, hurting your chance for good resident status.
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Is I 551 the Same as a Green Card?
No, the I-551 is not the same as a green card. It’s not too difficult to understand, either. A green card is the lawful permanent residency card that provides an immigrant visa with indefinite legality to both live and work in the United States and proves lawful permanent residence status.
Without a green card, it would not be possible or necessary to get an I-551 stamp. The I-551 is a temporary substitute of sorts while you are in the process of getting a green card.
The I-551 stamp has more connections with the green card in regards to renewal documents, but we will get to that shortly.
When Do I Need an I-551 Stamp?
You will need an I-551 stamp once you need to renew your green card or replace a stolen or lost green card and don’t plan to go through any sort of naturalization. Otherwise, you will be ineligible. You can begin the renewal process by filing Form I-90, which is the Application to Renew Permanent Residence Card, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within six months of the green card’s expiration date.
The I-90 form also needs to be filled out if the green card has expired already, or if the original green card was damaged, lost or stolen. No matter your nationality, to receive any sort of labor certification when you are between green cards, immigration law will require proof of immigrant visas if you are not a US citizen.
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Who Is Eligible for an I-551 Stamp?
Anyone who has filled out the I-90 form is eligible to receive the I-551 stamp. As long as you’ve filled that out and your green card is in the process of renewal whether due to expiration or damage, you will be able to get the I-551 stamp.
Remember, all it is is a temporary showing for permanent residence, so if you have a freshly renewed green card or an eligible one, the I-551 won’t be necessary, and you’ll lawfully be a resident even without US citizenship.
How Do I Get My i 551 Stamp?
So you, a green card holder, are in the process of renewing your green card and will need an I-551 stamp on your passport in the meantime, or else you may face deportation and forced departure from your newfound homeland.
The first step to getting your I-551 stamp is to set up an appointment with your USCIS office. You can set up an InfoPass appointment via the USCIS website with the InfoPass scheduling system. You will need to apply with an application form and make an appointment on a specific date of your choosing to continue with your permanent resident status as it has been.
If you don’t want to set up an appointment online, it’s also possible to file your card application in person at your local USCIS office or mail your application. Of course, it’s always more convenient to do this through the online web portal set up for the form and InfoPass appointment.
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What documents are required for an I-551 stamp?
There are quite a few documents required to obtain the I-551 stamp, but most of them are nothing but typical run-of-the-mill files.
You must submit:
A valid passport
Your InfoPass appointment notice, which can be printed from the USCIS website
Your Form I-90, which is the Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, receipt notice
Proof of residence within the jurisdiction of the USCIS office
If available, copy of your past expiration date or absent Green Card
A copy of a date-stamped ASC appointment notice showing you appeared for your biometrics appointment, if applicable.
If there are circumstances that may need specific responses or attention given, such as a death in the family or imminent foreign travel, whether to your home country or not, during the process of your green card renewal process, you should bring up to an official during the process.
Anything that is out of the ordinary from your daily routine should be mentioned if it will have an impact on your renewal process, and having a travel document will always help with reentry back into the country.
How Much Does an I-551 Stamp Cost?
While the I-551 stamp does not cost anything directly, the documents submitted to obtain the stamp as a noncitizen do have costs associated with them. For example, the I-90 Form will be the priciest of the bunch. It will cost a hefty $445.
Thankfully, this is only something that you only have to pay for every 10 or so years, since it is only an application for a green card. That is, of course, if you didn’t lose your green card within that 10-year span.
Also, there is an $85 cost to get your biometric appointment/paperwork. Other than that, there are no direct costs in the process of getting your I-551 stamp and won’t have to reenter anything until the next time you have to renew and get a green card.
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How Long Is an I-551 Stamp Valid For?
The I-551 stamp is valid for a period of between six months to one year. Once you get your green card, there will be no need for the I-551 stamp. If your passport is due to expire before the stamp is set to be invalidated, then the stamp will typically expire at the same time the passport expires.
Build the Bridge Between Your Green Cards
As shown by this guide, the process to obtain an I-551 stamp is not a difficult one at all for permanent residences. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
It’s such an invaluable tool to prove your residency status while renewing or obtaining a new green card. While the process to get the stamp can be a pricey endeavor, it’s practically included in the costs of getting a green card anyway.
If you’ve just renewed your green card, well, we’ll see you back at this article in a decade to once again become a permanent resident! What tips do you have to expedite the process of renewing your green card?