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Temporary I-551 Stamp: How to Get I-551 Stamp and Why You Might Need It

Temporary I-551 Stamp: How to Get I-551 Stamp and Why You Might Need It

What Is an I-551 Stamp?

Historically, the I-551 Form was simply called a green card because it was green in hue. The card grants an immigrant permanent resident status for up to 10 years at a time. It also has the potential to be renewed before it expires. If you receive a green card through marriage, there is a two-year conditional period before you can apply for the 10-year status.

The I-551 can be found on your permanent resident card as a 13-digit code. A temporary one can be issued should you be awaiting your permanent I-551. Remember, you must carry this card at all times with your official passport from your country of citizenship, especially if you hold a temporary version.

Who Is Eligible for a Permanent I-551?

There are four main categories of eligibility for the I-551 form. Each category is listed below with further explanation.

  • Immediate relatives of United States citizens: It’s quite common for a United States citizen to marry a foreign national. Should this be the case, the U.S. citizen in the partnership can file for an I-551 for their spouse. This also applies to dependents, such as children under the age of 21. Unfortunately, parents of U.S. citizens do not qualify as dependents.
  • Refugees and asylum seekers: Asylum status, also known as refugee status, was created to allow people suffering from extreme hardships in their own country to seek asylum in the United States. While there is no limit on how many people can apply for an I-551 with this status, only between 70,000 and 90,000 refugees are allowed to enter the United States each year.
  • Employment-based categories: Your skillset and knowledge may make you eligible for an I-551. Of the 480,000 green cards distributed each year, only 140,000 fit within this category.
  • Diversity Visa Lottery: Based on random selection, the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) makes up to 50,000—sometimes this goes up to 55,000— immigrant visas (green cards) available per year. The DV Program was created by the Department of State to increase diversity within the country. It gives individuals and their families a chance to attain green cards when they otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity.

What Is a Temporary Stamp?

I-551 temporary evidence stamps are offered to prove someone has permanent resident status while they wait for their new green card. There are three main reasons an immigrant to the United States would be granted temporary status by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

  • You are a lawful permanent resident (LPR)/green card holder awaiting renewal.
  • You have a pending I-90. An I-90 is the designated form to replace your permanent resident card. It may take months to obtain a replacement, but this is how you get the ball rolling.
  • You are waiting for an I-751. An I-751 is for individuals who are awaiting permanent resident status through marriage.

A Further Breakdown on Eligibility

It is advised to obtain an I-551 temporary evidence stamp if you are awaiting your I-90 or I-751 forms to be approved. You may also need one if your travel plans conflict with your I-551 renewal. This stamp is intended for emergency uses only and should not be used simply because you forgot to renew your green card.

Pending I-90

If you are a permanent resident whose Form I-90 is pending with USCIS, then you may qualify for a temporary I-551. An I-90 is the form you would fill out to renew your permanent resident card. Since this renewal process can take up to six months, you may need temporary approval for things like international travel.

Newly Arrived Immigrant

Temporary evidence stamps are provided to immigrants arriving to the United States for the first time using machine-readable immigrant visas (MRIV). Your MRIV will read: “UPON ENDORSEMENT SERVES AS TEMPORARY I-551 EVIDENCING PERMANENT RESIDENCE FOR 1 YEAR.” This one-year status covers the time it takes USCIS to approve your green card.

When Will You Need Your I-551 Stamp?

You may need a temporary evidence stamp if you are:

  • A permanent/conditional resident; this includes the need to travel during processing or the need for extra benefits
  • An immigrant entering the United States from your home country after you have been approved at that country’s United States Embassy or Consulate

A temporary evidence stamp may be needed when your green card is set to expire. They are most commonly used when a green card is lost, damaged, or stolen. Your permanent resident status doesn’t expire, but it is always useful to have proof of it present at all times.

Noted reasons for carrying your temporary status or green card with you are for travel or employment purposes. Many immigrants wish to return to their home country for up to a year at a time, and they can’t enter the United States again without an I-551. This includes temporary status if your green card expired while you were away.

How Do I Obtain a Stamp?

Your local USCIS office can issue you a temporary I-551 stamp in your passport if you are awaiting approval on an I-90. The reason for each stamp is unique to that particular situation, but they typically last from six to twelve months.

It’s advised to start the process of obtaining a temporary stamp by making an InfoPass appointment through the USCIS website. Walk-in appointments are available for those requiring a quick solution, although you should contact your local office first to make sure you understand their standard practices. Once you receive a stamp, it will remain active until you regain your permanent paperwork.

As part of your application, you will need to complete biometrics at your local Application Support Center (ASC). These include recordings of your fingerprints, a photograph, and a signature. You may also undergo background and security checks to confirm your identity. If your biometrics are not captured within 30 days of your I-90 filing, your stamp may be reduced to a temporary status of only 30 to 60 days.

What Documents Are Required in an Application?

When applying for an I-551 stamp, you should bring the following documents to your USCIS appointment:

  • Valid passport
  • InfoPass appointment notice
  • I-90 receipt
  • Proof of residence within the jurisdiction of the USCIS office
  • Copy of expired/lost green card
  • Copy of date-stamped ASC appointment with notice of biometrics capture

Each case differs from person to person. Someone may need their temporary I-551 for travel while someone else may need it for an emergency procedure. You will want to bring all documents possible to justify your reasoning. These range from death certificates to airplane tickets.

How Long Does it Last?

A temporary I-551 tends to last for six to twelve months, but each individual will work out a different circumstance with USCIS during their appointment. USCIS tends to make a temporary I-551 last as long as the passport takes to renew. Should your passport be renewed in four months, you will be granted a four-month pass.

I-551 Stamp: Costs

There is no direct fee allocated towards the temporary I-551. Should you lose your green card, it is mandatory to pay $445 to fill out Form I-90. There is also an $85 biometrics fee.

How Long Does it Take to Get an I-551 Stamp?

The timing of your I-551 appointment will be determined on a case-by-case basis. It is advised you contact USCIS immediately should you lose your card and require temporary status. Typically, it takes two to four weeks to solidify an appointment if you are a new immigrant.

How Do You Travel With a Temporary Stamp?

A temporary stamp is the only way to properly reenter the country if you have traveled abroad with an expired green card. Make sure to keep a copy of your expired card if you made one before it was lost, damaged, or stolen.

Reach Out to Scott D. Pollock & Associates for Counsel

Receiving your I-551 is a life-changing day for many. It gives an immigrant permanent entry into the United States. As with any USCIS form, there may be caveats you are unaware of as a non-citizen, which is why it can be useful to hire an experienced attorney to help obtain your I-551.

You want to work with an attorney that is skilled, compassionate, and hard-working, qualities that can be found in each of our attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. We are based in Chicago, but have worked nationally to help clients resolve their immigration issues. We have a combined 70 years of experience that has made us leaders in the field. We are here to work with you no matter what part of the application process you are currently in. Contact us at 312-444-1940 or visit our website today for more information.

We're looking forward to hearing from you!