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What to do When Your Green Card is Lost in the Mail

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You aced your interview and received a note saying that you've been approved for permanent residence and your green card has been mailed. But now it's a month later and you still haven't received your green card. What do you do?

If your green card has been lost in the mail, you will need to apply for a replacement card. This sounds simple, if a bit of a pain, until you learn that you may also have to pay another filing fee for the application and biometrics ($370 in 2009 rates). This fee is in addition to what you paid for the initial green card application. It's enough to push even the most patient person over the edge.

The rule is, if you do not receive the green card in the mail and USCIS mailed it to the address you provided but the card isn't returned to USCIS, then you must pay the full filing fee. (You can read this on the I-90 instructions, "What is the Filing Fee?") If the undelivered card is returned to USCIS, you still need to file for a replacement card but the filing fee is waived.

Here are some tips to consider when your green card is lost in the mail:

Make Sure You've Been Approved

Sounds silly, but you want to be sure that you've actually been approved before you start rattling any cages. Have you received the approval letter or email? Has the card been mailed out? If you can't confirm this with the information you have, make an Infopass appointment at your local field office to find out the details.

Wait 30 Days

USCIS advises that you wait 30 days before assuming the card has been lost in the mail. This allows for time for the card to be mailed and returned to USCIS if undeliverable.

Check With Your Post Office

The Post Office is supposed to return the undelivered card to USCIS but just in case they haven't, go to your local USPS office and ask if they have any undelivered mail in your name.

Make an Infopass Appointment

Even if you verified the details with by calling the 1-800 number for the National Customer Service Center, I'd suggest double-checking the information at your local field office. Make an Infopass appointment and have them verify the address that the card was sent to and the date it was mailed. If the USCIS officer can confirm that it was sent to the correct address, it's been more than 30 days since the card was mailed and the card has not been returned to USCIS, it's time to move on.

Contact Your Congressperson

If you're lucky, your local Congressperson will agree with you that paying an additional fee for a replacement card is absurd, and offer to work with you to help USCIS see it in the same way. I've read a few success stories from people in the same situation; it all depends on who you get. Find your House or Senate representative to learn how best to contact them. Most district offices will have caseworkers who help with federal agency problems. There is no guarantee that they will get the fees waived for you, but it has helped some people so it's worth a try.

File I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card

Whether or not the card has been returned to USCIS, the only way to get a new card is to file Form I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. If you need confirmation of your status to work or travel while it's processing, make an Infopass appointment to get a temporary I-551 stamp until your new card arrives.

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