Navigating Green Card Errors
Everyone makes the occasional mistake — including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is rare, but there are instances where USCIS issues a green card to an applicant in error. This clerical error often means that a green card applicant receives a green card before one is available for them, or they receive a permanent green card without meeting the eligibility requirements. Receiving a green card in error can impact your future immigration journey, so it’s important to take the necessary steps to rectify a green card issue as soon as possible.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
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Immigrant visas for foreign nationals in employment-based and most family-based categories (excluding immediate relatives of U.S. citizens) are subject to statutory limits. It is important for individuals seeking a green card to track their eligibility for receiving one depending on the availability of an immigrant visa number. Immigrant visa availability is determined by “priority dates” in the Visa Bulletin issued every month by the Department of State.
Note: You can learn more about how to read the Visa Bulletin and how to check your priority date here. If you receive a green card from USCIS before your priority date becomes current, or before a visa is available, it could be a mistake or an administrative error.
If the green card recipient does not take action with USCIS, one of two things may happen:
- USCIS notices the error soon after issuance. If USCIS determines that a green card was issued by mistake, they may issue a notice of intent to rescind (NOIR). In such cases, it is possible that USCIS may decide to reopen the initial green card application and place it back into pending status until the individual’s priority date becomes current. However, it is important to note that there is also a possibility that, following the rescission, the individual could face deportation proceedings. If you receive a NOIR, it’s best to contact an immigration attorney for assistance. Boundless’ Ask My Attorney (AMA) program can help connect you with an experienced independent immigration attorney instantly and provide you with unlimited legal consultations. Check your eligibility and learn more about the program here.
- USCIS does not acknowledge the error until the green card holder files for a green card renewal or U.S. citizenship. In some cases, USCIS might not become aware of the error until several years after the green card was issued. Typically, such errors come to light when an individual applies for naturalization or goes to renew an expiring green card. If the error is detected during the naturalization process, it could render the individual ineligible for U.S. citizenship or reveal that they were never a lawful permanent resident in the first place.
Key takeaway: A prematurely received green card could pose potential problems down the road, particularly when it comes to applying for U.S. citizenship, so it’s important to be proactive and reach out to USCIS as soon as possible to rectify the error.
If you’re applying for a green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen or green card holder, it’s important to understand the difference between a permanent, 10-year green card and a conditional, 2-year green card.
Typically, a conditional green card is issued to spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents when the marriage is less than two years old at the time of obtaining the green card. It serves as a way to ensure the authenticity of the marriage and prevent fraudulent marriages solely for immigration purposes. To obtain a permanent green card, the cardholder and their spouse must jointly file a petition to remove conditions (Form I-751) before the conditional green card expires.
If you receive a 10-year green card instead of the expected 2-year green card, you can address the error with USCIS by filing Form I-90. Form I-90 is used to apply for a replacement or renewal of a green card, and it can also be utilized to correct errors on the card, such as the incorrect duration.
Choosing not to address the issue and keeping the original green card may lead to complications down the road. If the mistake is discovered by USCIS during your naturalization process, you may be required to file a late I-751 petition. This can be challenging, especially if you are no longer married, as obtaining the required supporting documents may prove difficult.
In the event that your late-filed I-751 petition is denied, the consequences could be severe. Your green card could be revoked, and you may be subjected to immigration proceedings. It is therefore important to recognize the potential risks and take appropriate action to obtain the green card you’re eligible for.