Form I-551 Permanent Resident Card
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I-551 Form Explained
So you applied for your permanent resident card (AKA, green card). You’ve probably seen or heard of an I-551 stamp by now. But what exactly is Form I-551, and what does it mean for you? We’re here to take all the guesswork out of filing for aspiring lawful permanent residents.
The Phoenix immigration lawyers at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group are here to answer all your questions regarding permanent resident status. To schedule a consultation with a Phoenix, AZ, immigration attorney about your situation, please call 602-910-4040 today.
What Is Form I-551?
Form I-551 is a card that signifies your permanent resident status, allowing you to travel and work freely within the United States. Only those who have already applied for permanent residence status will receive Form I-551. When you get Form I-551, it means you have successfully acquired lawful permanent resident status. Congratulations!
In other words, Form I-551 is your United States “green card.”
However, the Form I-551 designation appears on more than just your green card. Form I-551 appears on several additional documents and forms related to immigration. Regardless of where it appears, it signals to anyone who sees it that you are a permanent resident of the United States.
Therefore, you have the legal right to travel and work as you please.
Remember that the lawful permanent resident status lasts up to ten years. You can renew the I-551 stamp before it ever expires, which can help keep your permanent resident status valid. However, those who get green cards through marriage (and have been married less than two years) must endure a two-year conditional period before applying for the 10-year period.
The Form I-551 itself is a 13-digit code that is unique to you.
Who Can Get a Form I-551?
It’s important to understand the eligibility requirements for a permanent resident card. Generally, there are four categories of eligibility in the United States for the permanent resident card, which we list below.
It is common for United States citizens to marry a foreign national or non-citizen. In this case, the citizen can file for a permanent resident card for their new spouse. You can also apply for permanent resident status for any dependents you have, meaning children under the age of 21. Parents of citizens currently do not qualify for permanent residence under this category.
Asylum status and refugee status are essentially the same. They are interchangeable terms. If someone suffers extreme hardship, persecution, or torture in their home country, they can seek asylum in the United States. Technically, there is no limit on how many refugees may apply for this status in a given year. However, the average number of refugees allowed into the United States yearly ranges from 70,000 to 90,000 people.
You might already be eligible to apply if you have a particularly useful set of professional skills. Approximately 140,000 people apply for and obtain green cards based on this eligibility category.
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (or DV Program) is another way for a non-citizen to achieve permanent residency. It is essentially a lottery that non-citizens can enter for free in order for a chance to work and live in the US. Unlike other categories of eligibility, it is not necessary to have existing relationships in the United States to apply.
How Do I Get a Permanent I-551 Stamp?
The first step is to call your local USCIS office. You must schedule an appointment to obtain a temporary stamp for Form I-551. Many people apply for a temporary evidence stamp while waiting for approval on their Form I-90. A temporary evidence stamp generally lasts anywhere from six months to a year. This endorsement serves as temporary evidence of your commitment to seeking permanent residency.
To make your appointment, you should make an InfoPass appointment through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website. If you need help with any step of the process, our experienced immigration lawyers are here to help.
Once you’ve made your appointment, you should follow USCIS instructions to obtain your temporary evidence stamp. This stamp intends to last until you have permanent paperwork. Part of the temporary application process involves something called a biometrics appointment.
Biometrics sounds much more complicated than it actually is. Basically, USCIS gathers information unique to you to identify you. Examples of this information include photographs, fingerprints, and a signature. They may also request background checks.
How Long Does an I-551 Stamp Last?
Temporary evidence stamps only last from six to twelve months. However, circumstances vary depending on how your USCIS appointment goes.
Usually, USCIS grants a temporary I-551 that lasts as long as it takes to renew your passport. A permanent Form I-551 lasts up to ten years.
What Is a Temporary I-551 Stamp?
Temporary I-551 stamps intend to show someone’s permanent residence status while they wait for their new green card. There are a few reasons why someone might need a temporary I-551.
Who Is Eligible for a Temporary I-551 Stamp?
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office will usually issue temporary proof of the legal status of permanent residents for the following reasons.
- They have a pending Form I-90 to replace their expired green card. Filing this form is the first step in the green card replacement or renewal process.
- They have a pending Form I-751. This applies to those who wish to become permanent residents through marriage.
- They are already an LPR or green card holder waiting to renew their existing green card.
Why Do I Need an I-551 Temporary Evidence Stamp?
Both permanent and conditional residents may need a temporary stamp due to several reasons. They usually need it for travel or to obtain certain benefits. Additionally, a new immigrant recently approved by the United States embassy or consulate may need a temporary admission stamp.
Before someone receives their official green card, they will receive a machine-readable immigrant visa (MRIV). The MRIV will be placed in your passport for viewing by a Customs and Border Protection agent.
Other reasons include the following:
- Replacing lost green cards
- Replacing a damaged but valid green card
- Carrying out routine replacements when the green card expires
- If you plan to travel while you wait for your I-90 or I-751 forms
How Long Does It Take to Get an I-551 Stamp?
Determining how long it will take to get your temporary stamp or an actual green card is difficult. Time frames vary according to individual circumstances. We advise you to speak with an immigration attorney to understand potential waiting periods better.
However, we recommend immediately calling your local USCIS field office if you lose your official green card. For new immigrants, it may take as long as two to four weeks to set up an appointment.
Documents Required for an I-551 Stamp
While preparing for your USCIS appointment, you should gather the following documents to take with you.
- Your valid foreign passport
- The InfoPass appointment notice
- A copy of your green card
- Proof of residence, such as mail or utility bills
- Your I-90 receipt
To ensure you are as prepared as possible, consider speaking with a qualified immigration law firm. Depending on your specific situation, we may recommend taking other forms, such as death certificates, with you.
Is an I-551 Stamp the Same as a Green Card?
In essence, yes. While they are not exactly the same, they operate similarly. Regardless of whether you have a permanent or temporary one, the purpose of the stamp is to show that you are, in fact, a lawful permanent resident. It basically allows you to do anything that a regular green card will allow you to do.
However, a temporary stamp is obviously temporary—the benefits you receive from the temporary stamp only last until its expiration.
Can You Travel with an I-551 Stamp?
First, check the expiration date of your temporary stamp. If your stamp is not expired or close to expiring, you can travel wherever you wish. However, we recommend renewing the stamp before traveling if you’re cutting it close.
Can I Work with a Temporary I-551 Stamp?
Yes. You can use the temporary form to achieve employment authorization. This is true even if you are waiting to replace a lost, stolen, or damaged green card.
How Much Does an I-551 Stamp Cost?
Technically, the stamp itself costs nothing. There is no direct fee associated with it. However, the mandatory I-90 document costs a fee of $445. Additionally, if you must undergo biometric screening, this costs an additional $85. If you pay for both of these, they add up to $530.
Is an Alien Registration Number the Same as Form I-551?
No. The alien registration number is a seven-, eight-, or nine-digit number that immigration services issue to each immigrant. It basically serves as an identification number that helps them keep track of your documents in the immigration system.
Contact a Phoenix Immigration Lawyer Today
If you struggle to navigate the green card process, we recommend speaking with a compassionate, experienced immigration law firm. At Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, we have handled a wide variety of immigration cases over the years with great success. We can also help you replace permanent resident card when the time comes.
Our goal is to ensure that immigrants and their families understand and protect their legal rights in the United States. For more information about the cases we handle or to schedule a consultation with us, please call 602-910-4040 today. When you establish an attorney-client relationship with us, any confidential information you give us will remain confidential.
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