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What is Form I-551? I-551 Permanent Resident Card and Application Process

What is Form I-551? I-551 Permanent Resident Card and Application Process

What Is a Form I-551?

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 Form 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 a dependent
  • 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 Documents Are Required and How Long Is the Processing Time?

Here is a shortlist of documents that may be required. Each of the categories detailed above could call for its own specific set of documents. Please provide these documents to your sponsor if necessary.

  • Passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Financial documents
  • Proof of the sponsor’s U.S. citizenship or permanent residency
  • Form I-94
  • Police clearance certificate
  • Prior-marriage termination papers if you are divorced
  • Immigration violation records
  • Written employment confirmation from your U.S. employer

Scott. D. Pollock & Associates is here to help you through this process if you are unsure of which documents to include.

How Do You Apply for I-551?

  • Eligibility: You need to have a sponsor in order to apply for I-551. Your sponsor should be an American citizen who will validate your entrance. Those seeking asylum as refugees do not need a petitioner.
  • Availability: Ensure your category of the entrance is available when you apply. Your application should be submitted only when green cards are accessible for that category. United States Citizenship and immigration Services (USCIS) should have your necessary criteria listed on their web At Scott D. Pollock & Associates, we always ensure your sponsor is submitting at the proper time.
  • Paperwork: There may be additional paperwork required to help you obtain the proper rights within the United States. The Department of Labor is responsible for fulfilling all employment-based green cards. For example, you could be granted a Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) certification.
  • Immigrant visa number: You cannot proceed without an immigrant visa number. You should be assigned an immigrant visa in order to apply. They are distributed by the National Visa Center.
  • Adjustment of status: You can receive your I-551 in the United States through an adjustment of status. This prevents you from having to return to your home country when your visa expires. Those individuals living outside of the United States while applying will begin the process with their home country’s U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

How Much Does it Cost?

The standard I-551 filing fee is $985. If required, your biometric screening appointment will cost you an additional $85.

What Is the Processing Time?

No two cases will look the same. In general, each Form I-551 takes anywhere between six months and a year to process. Each category has different approvals, paperwork, and systems in place to finalize green cards. It is possible to apply for an I-551 stamp, which grants you temporary access to the United States while you wait for green card approval. This can be done through USCIS.

Temporary Green Card: A Quick Summary

A temporary green card or machine-readable immigrant visa (MRIV) may be granted if your permanent residence has been approved by a United States consular office or embassy. Your MRIV will read: “UPON ENDORSEMENT SERVES AS TEMPORARY I-551 EVIDENCING PERMANENT RESIDENCE FOR 1 YEAR.”

This will be stamped upon your passport when you enter the United States through Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The stamp includes the date you entered and gives you one year of permanent resident status, although, in most cases, your green card should arrive within one to two months of your arrival in the U.S.

What If You Lose Your I-551?

As the I-551 is a standard card size, it is always possible that you may lose, accidentally destroy, or have your proof of residence stolen. Contact USCIS immediately if this happens. They should issue you a temporary I-551, which is typically done as a stamp in your foreign passport and was formerly known as the Identification & Telecommunications (ADIT) stamp. The process for replacing your permanent I-551 is outlined below.

  • File an 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.
  • Obtain your I-90 receipt number: Two weeks after you have filed your I-90, USCIS will mail you an I-797C Notice of Action. This will help you schedule an appointment to obtain your replacement.
  • Schedule an appointment with USCIS: Call 1-800-375-5283 to schedule your USCIS appointment for your passport’s temporary I-551 sta If you have left the United States on a trip, this may be your only way back in.
  • Attend your USCIS meeting: Arrive on time to your scheduled USCIS appointment. Bring the following items with you:
  • Passport
  • InfoPass appointment notification
  • I-797C Notice of Action Form
  • Copy of your lost card (if you made one before losing it)

There are times when replacing an I-551 is an urgent matter. If so, you may need to bring additional documents to speed up the process. These include, but aren’t limited to, airline tickets, travel itinerary, a letter from a lender, doctor’s letter, or a letter from your employer.

Put Your Trust in Scott D. Pollock & Associates

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!