How Do I Get Home to the US If I Lose My Green Card Abroad?

Losing a Green Card while traveling overseas feels like a nightmare scenario. This document holds so much weight in your ability to travel internationally when based in the United States, but there is a difference between losing your Green Card overseas and merely forgetting it.

We work with clients to provide important legal advice in these situations. When you actually lose your card abroad, it’s more urgent as you won’t be able to get back to the US without proof of your residency status. If you simply forgot your card, then having someone back home retrieve it and send it to you or using a copy of the document to try and convince airline agents to let you onboard may suffice.

Ultimately, the challenge lies more with airlines that risk being fined for not verifying a traveler’s documents as opposed to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) who may simply choose to fine an entrant before letting them into the country. To fine or not is up to the discretion of CBP.

Attempting to Get on a Flight Without Your Green Card

When you find yourself without a Green Card while trying to return to the United States from abroad, the main hurdle is generally going to be the airline. Airlines face substantial fines if they allow passengers to board without proper documentation proving they will be admitted into the US upon arrival.

While CBP fines on individuals for traveling without their Green Card are rare, they are still a possibility, but you at least are able to enter the country. This is why our advice to clients who are facing this situation is to attempt to persuade an airline by showing a copy of their Green Card if able. This isn’t a guaranteed way to get onboard and into the country, but it’s a viable option if you are not able to access your Green Card in a timely manner or you have completely lost your Green Card.

What to Do After Losing Your Green Card

For permanent residents who actually lose their Green Card (and not just forget it) while traveling abroad, the immediate step is to file Form I-131A, Application for Carrier Documentation, with a US embassy or consulate. This form is for the issuance of a temporary travel document, allowing the traveler to prove to airlines their eligibility to return to the US.

The eligibility criteria includes those returning from temporary overseas travel of less than one year whose Green Card has been lost, stolen, or destroyed. It is important, however, to not file Form I-131A if your absence exceeds that duration as this may imply you have abandoned your permanent resident status. For longer absences, consulting an immigration attorney for alternatives like a Returning Resident (SB-1) visa is a more likely option.

Competent Business Immigration Representation With Valvo & Associates

You don’t want to be standing at your airport gate traveling back to the United States when you realize you’ve lost or forgotten your Green Card. Unfortunately, it’s a reality some individuals face. We’re here to help.

At Valvo & Associates, we want to make sure you are equipped with the necessary legal knowledge, advice, and tools to protect your status and return home without issue. We work with clients to make sure they have everything they need to handle evolving circumstances and missing or outdated documentation. For comprehensive support and guidance, please contact Valvo & Associates for all your business immigration needs.

By Brandon Valvo