December 3, 2023

Immigration Green Card

Immigration Is Good For You

The Green Card Renewal Process, Explained

5 min read

How do I renew my green card during Covid?

Because you’re able to file Form I-90 either by mail or online, Covid-related restrictions shouldn’t affect your ability to submit. That being said, there’s a chance you’ll need to attend an interview. As it stands, field offices are currently open, and there are federal guidelines in place to help maintain a safe environment. For instance, everyone in a federal building must wear a mask, and physical distancing is strictly enforced.

If you’ve experienced any of the following, you should not enter a USCIS field office:

  • You’ve been diagnosed with Covid-19, or have any related symptoms, such as a cough, fever, or difficulty breathing
  • You’ve been near anyone with Covid-19 within 2 weeks of your appointment (this doesn’t apply to vaccinated applicants)
  • You’ve returned from a trip abroad within 10 days of your appointment
  • You’ve received instructions to self-quarantine

Be aware that you should not arrive at your appointment any more than 15 minutes beforehand, and USCIS suggests that you bring your own black-ink pen to reduce the possibility of transmission. If you’re unable to attend for any of the aforementioned reasons — or any other reason for that matter — you can call the USCIS contact center at 1-800-375-5283.

Does a green card renewal require an interview?

In general, you do not need to attend an interview after filing the Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. USCIS may, however, request that you attend an in-person interview, at which point they might ask for biometric data, such as fingerprints and photographs, in addition to running a background check.

If you’re a conditional permanent resident (CPR), and you’re approaching your 2-year limit, you will very likely have to attend an interview after filing Form I-751, known as Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. This is due to a change in policy that took effect in December of 2018. Read our article on the subject to learn more.

It should be noted that Form I-751 is not, strictly speaking, a green card renewal form. As the form designation suggests, it is meant to remove conditions from your green card. Once I-751 is approved, you will receive a 10-year permanent resident card.

How often should I renew my green card?

If you have a 10-year permanent resident card that has expired, or is going to expire within the next 6 months, you should promptly renew your card using Form I-90. You can check to see when your card expires by looking at the front of your ID where it says “Card Expires.”

If you’re a CPR, your green card will expire after 2 years, and you will be expected to file Form I-751 no sooner than 90 days before the expiration date. If you’re unsure whether you are a CPR, you can check for the “CR1” designation on your permanent resident card.

Will they do a criminal history check when I file for renewal? If so, will a misdemeanor affect my case?

It’s possible that USCIS will ask you to attend a biometrics appointment, after which they’ll run a background check. It is highly likely that your criminal history, if you have one, will turn up during this process. Having a misdemeanor on your record does not automatically disqualify you from renewal. There are 3 crime-related reasons, as outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act, that could bar you from successfully obtaining your updated permanent resident card:

  • Specific criminal conviction: If you commit a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) — a term that stretches back to the 1957 case, “In the Matter of K” — or violate laws, in the United States or abroad, related to controlled substances, this could be grounds for denial.
  • Multiple criminal convictions: If you are convicted of 2 or more crimes that result in 5 or more years of imprisonment, then you may be denied.
  • Controlled substance trafficking: If you are known to have taken part in illegal drug trafficking — whether as an accomplice or a direct perpetrator — your case may be denied. This is true even if you are the “spouse, son, or daughter” of a known trafficker.

Note that there are some exceptions that might apply. For instance, if you committed a CIMT prior to the age of 18 and the crime occurred 5 years before the date of your visa application, you might still be eligible to receive a renewed green card. If you’re unsure about whether you’ll pass the legal test for admissibility, you may want to reach out to an attorney. You can also contact Boundless. We can connect you with an immigration lawyer without the immense fees usually associated with legal representation.

How do you waive the green card renewal fee?

To waive the fee for Form I-90, you will need to fill out Form I-912, otherwise known as Request for Fee Waiver. To receive the fee waiver, you must be able to show that your financial situation bars you from making such a payment. According to the instructions for filling out Form I-912, there are 3 different ways of proving this. You need only prove 1 of the following:

  • You receive a “means-tested benefit”: This is a public benefit given to you on the basis of income. Examples of means-tested benefits include: SNAP, Supplemental Security Income, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. You must provide evidence that you receive such a benefit
  • Your household income is equal to or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines: Generally speaking, for a household of 5 people, the current maximum is $31,040.
  • You’re experiencing financial hardship: If you can prove that you’re unable to pay the fee due to your current financial situation, then you might be eligible for the waiver. You may be experiencing hardship if you have lofty medical expenses; if you’re unemployed; or if you’re currently houseless — though other reasons might also apply. You can pursue this line of reasoning even if your income exceeds the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

If you can successfully prove that you are incapable of paying the fee — using one of these 3 categories — then you could save nearly $500, depending on the circumstances surrounding your renewal.


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