A foreign national who becomes lawful permanent of the United States, is granted a permanent resident card also known as a Green Card, which is valid for ten years. This card is issued as a proof of the holder’s lawful status in the United States. It is an important document to all permanent residents of the United States and hence it must be kept safe. It is mandatory to contact the USCIS, if you had lost your permanent resident card. Similarly you must ensure that you do not let it expire.
If you had lost your Green Card during your trip abroad, you may not be able to re-enter the United States. Green Card replacement process involves filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, with the USCIS. You may not get a new Green Card as soon as you file Form I-90, so it is wise to plan accordingly. You must also remember that the airlines do not board travelers who do not have Green Cards. You may be able to travel if you have Form I-797, Notice of Action, which verifies that you had applied for Green Card replacement. Similarly certain airlines do not allow passengers to travel with an expired Green Card. The notice of action that you had obtained while filing an application to renew your Green Card will establish that you are a lawful permanent resident and will help you to travel back to the United States.
If you had lost your permanent resident card or if it was stolen while you were outside the United States, you must immediately file a complaint in the local police station. Make sure that you obtain a police report on filing a complaint. You may also publish an advertisement in the local newspaper, stating that the card is invalid and obtain a copy of that ad. Go to the nearest US Consulate or Embassy, with the police report and the newspaper ad and request a US government transportation letter. You may be able to travel back to a United States with that letter and remember that you must complete the Form I-90 and pay the required fee while you re-enter the United States.
To apply for a transportation letter, you must present your valid passport, the police report, recent passport photographs, completely filled Green Card renewal application, Form I-90 and copies of the lost Green Card if available. Though you present all the required documents, a transportation letter may not be issued immediately. The US Embassy or Consulate may take at least two days to process your application and to affirm that you are a legal resident of the United States. You may receive the transportation letter only after that. These transportation letters are valid only for one entry into the United States and are valid for one week to a month. The validity period of these letters are based on the issuing US Embassies or Consulates. If you fail to enter the United States before the expiration of your transportation letter, you must follow the same process and obtain a new letter to re-enter the United States.
You must also remember that a lost or an expired Green Card may not be replaced or renewed by a US Embassy or Consulate outside the United States. Form I-90 that you submitted along with the application for a transportation letter will be returned to you by the US Embassy or Consulate and you may use that to replace or renew your Green Card. You must pay the required fee to obtain new permanent resident card.