AILA Press Release on Considerations when Renewing Green Cards

For Immediate Release:

Matthew Tallmer
Public Affairs Manager
Office:  202-216-2404
Fax: 202-371-9449

Monday, November 15, 1999

WASHINGTON – Many legal permanent residents need to renew their green cards in the coming months, but some should proceed carefully to ensure that their rights are preserved, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

“If people do not renew their green cards, they might have difficulty proving eligibility to work, to travel abroad, and to prove their status if picked up by the INS or other law enforcement agencies,” said Jeanne Butterfield, AILA’s Executive Director.

However, the INS renewal process does not address several potential problems for immigrants. Under the 1996 immigration laws, INS inspectors can order an immigrant detained or immediately deported if they doubt the validity of the immigrant’s travel documents, or if they believe that a lengthy absences from the U.S. amounted to an abandonment of permanent residence. Also, the 1996 immigration laws redefine, and retroactively apply those definitions, to the offenses for which immigrants may be deported.

“Thus, anyone with an arrest record – including arrests for what seemed minor offenses at the time, and anyone who has spent significant time outside the U.S. since obtaining permanent residence – should seek legal counsel before applying for a new green card,” Butterfield said.

Another concern is that the green card renewals could further increase the already tremendous backlogs in naturalization petitions and family unity adjudications. “We consider it a potential major problem. For the past few years, the backlogs in the numbers of people seeking to become naturalized or reunited with their family members have increased dramatically. Now the agency needs to not only reduce these backlogs, but also process 660,000 green card renewals. Something has got to give. AILA is concerned about the INS’ ability to issue new green cards, while still continuing to process other applications in the pipeline,” Butterfield said.

In late 1989, the INS issued green cards that expired after ten years, with the result that 660,000 lawful permanent residents now need to renew their cards within the next 12-14 months. Only the card is expiring: the permanent resident’s status does not expire. In order to avoid problems when travelling or seeking employment, it is important that those with expiring cards apply to the INS to renew their green card. While the new card is being printed, INS either will issue a temporary photo document, or put a stamp in the resident’s passport. A page on the INS’ Web site outlines the renewal procedures.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 99112301.