The immigration process in the United States can be a lengthy and challenging one for many people. However, this level of scrutiny is necessary to ensure that those who follow all the rules are allowed legal entry into the country. Those who wish to live and work within the country legally on a permanent basis must apply for a green card. 

Apply for a Green Card 

Immigrants to the United States who want legal documentation from citizenship and immigration services must apply for a green card. It is very often a complicated process to do so, and a significant amount of immigration paperwork must be filled out before one is granted the green card that one seeks. This is why it is wise to seek out an immigration attorney to assist you with this matter. 

An immigration attorney can help show you that there are many ways to go about applying for a green card number. For example, one may seek out a green card via the following means: 

  • Through a family member who already legally lives in the United States
  • Through an employer who sponsors your green card
  • Through the Green Card Lottery

No matter the method that one decides to pursue, completed government forms will be necessary to get the process moving along. Getting an immigration attorney on the case as soon as possible is the best way to move forward.

What is the Green Card Number? 

The green card number is a series of numbers, letters, and “less than” symbols that appear on the back of the green card itself. If you take any green card and flip it over, you will see this string of characters. The green card number is located within that string of characters along with many other important pieces of information that are unique to your card. 

Your green card number is important for a variety of immigration documents that immigration services may request from you at some point. Since your green card is the same as your permanent resident card, you will want to keep this number and this card handy at all times. 

Your green card number tracks unique details about your immigration history that immigration services can use to identify the kind of world travel that you may have been engaged in. Once again, this is necessary because immigration services need to identify anyone who might be a potential threat to the country. As long as that doesn’t define you, then you have no worries.

Where is the Green Card Number on Your Card? 

If you bring your green card to the Texas service center, or to any service center that deals with immigration and ask about your green card number, they will refer you to the back of your green card. It doesn’t matter if your green card was issued at the Texas service center, the California service center, the Vermont service center, or any other service center, the green card number is always going to be listed on the back of the card. It is an effective way for the government to standardize green cards, so they can quickly access the information that they need about any green card holder in the country. 

This system of putting the green card number on the back of the card is also useful for the green card holder as well. After all, they can more easily find their green card number whenever they require it, and that is a big deal for most people. They don’t want to miss the opportunity to pull up their own green card number when they need it. 

How to Read Your Green Card Number

Reading your green card number on your permanent resident card is something that you need to know how to do. When you receive your green card number from the Texas service center or any other service center, make sure you know how to read it before moving on. If you are uncertain about what you are looking at, you might ask someone at the Texas service center to explain it to you. 

First, you should flip your permanent resident card over, so you can reveal the back of the card and the information that you ultimately need from it. Once you have done so, look for a 13-digit number that is on the far right side of the first line of numbers, letters, and symbols. This number will be just before the “less than” symbols on the first line sequence. This number is your green card number, and it is the most important part of that lengthy sequence on the back of your permanent resident card. 

Understanding the Green Card Format 

Although your green card number might look like a complete jumble on your permanent resident card when you first view it, there is actually a method to the madness. The format is unique to you and your card, and that is done by design. When someone who is trained on how to read these cards at a service center looks at it, they can tell a lot about who you are simply based on the information they discover on the card. Here are the three parts that are significant to government agencies about the green card number format: 

  • The first two digits describe the card’s region of issuance (for example, the Vermont service center has a different code from the California service center)
  • The middle two digits are the card’s serial number
  • The last five digits are completely unique to the individual cardholder
  • Those are important pieces of information to run through the system at the southern regional center or wherever else a government agency may process a card. 

What Happens if You Don’t Renew Your Green Card? 

It is never a good idea to allow your green card to expire. You may have to deal with a government agency that does not view this very favourably. It is very difficult to perform some of life’s basic functions if you are holding onto an expired green card. 

You May Have Trouble Re-Entering the Country

An expired green card won’t be enough to get you back into the country if you travel abroad. You need a number that is valid and cleared by the California service center or some other government agency that has the authority to do so. Otherwise, you are simply holding an expired card that won’t do much to serve your needs.

You Might Have Trouble Applying for a Job

Applying for new jobs requires proof of citizenship or a valid green card. When you have allowed your green card to expire, it will no longer be considered valid by a private company that is potentially interested in hiring you. The private company has to protect its own interests and make sure it doesn’t hire someone who is illegally in the country. Thus, you may find that your application is rejected outright if you have an expired green card. 

You May be Denied Benefits 

Any government benefits that you qualify for may be voided if you have an expired green card. Again, the United States is rather strict on providing benefits only to those who are in the country legally. Once your green card expires, it is no longer considered valid within the country, and you might discover that it is harder than ever to get the benefits that you once counted on. You might want to look at getting completed government forms directly so that you know for sure that your green card will be renewed on schedule.

5 Things to do After Green Card Theft

There is always a risk that a green card may become stolen. These cards are truly prized possessions for many people, and there are more than a few people who will take a chance at stealing one if they think they can get away with it. It is your responsibility to make sure your card is protected at all times. However, if your card is stolen from you, make sure you follow these steps: 

  1. File a Police Report - You need an official document that says that your card was stolen. This should be reported to law enforcement immediately. 
  2. Contact the Major Credit Bureaus to Report the Theft - The last thing you want to have to happen is for someone to take advantage of your green card for their own personal financial gain. They might literally benefit from it by stealing your identity and tarnishing your good credit in the process. Contact the credit bureaus to put a stop to this. 
  3. Inform the Social Security Administration - Another government agency that needs to know about your green card theft is the Social Security Administration. They also keep up with identity matters, and you need to inform them of the theft ASAP. 
  4. Let the IRS Know About the Theft - The agency that you report your taxes to also needs to know that your card has been stolen from you. They might need to issue a stop to any tax claims on your old card number. 
  5. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) - You should let the Federal Trade Commission know what is going on as well. They need the information because they also need to open a case regarding your stolen green card. 

You should always take these steps as quickly as possible following the theft to minimize the damage to the best of your ability. 

When Does a Green Card Expire? 

It is always possible to check when your card expires simply by referring to the expiration date printed on the card. For the most part, the expiration date for any card issued by citizenship and immigration services will be ten years from the date it was issued. 

Can You Apply for Citizenship with an Expired Green Card? 

Yes, you can apply for citizenship even if your card is expired. Ideally, you will renew your green card before this becomes an issue, but you may discover that you are pressed for time and need to apply for citizenship even if your green card is expired. In that event, you should get in touch with a law firm that handles immigration cases to see how they might assist you. 

The law firm will track down Form N-400 for you to fill out as your application for citizenship. They will make sure you understand the full ramifications of what it means to be a United States citizen, and the people at the law firm can also help you apply, even if your card is expired.


What is the process for renewing a green card?

You can renew your green card through a simple process of filing a Form I-90 on the USCIS website to receive a renewed green card that will be valid again for another ten years. 

What is the fee for renewing a green card?

The amount required to renew your green card is $540.30. While this is an expensive rate for most people, it is only something that has to be done once every ten years. 

What is the deadline for renewing a green card?

You typically have ten years from the date when the card was first issued to you to get it renewed. Check the expiration date on your card to see when that date is and make sure you get it renewed before that time. 

What happens if I don’t renew my card? 

There are major downsides to not renewing your card. You may be rejected for employment opportunities, and you may be barred from re-entering the United States if you travel abroad. 

Can I renew my green card online? 

No, there isn’t currently an option to renew online. 

Pitfalls of Work or School Abroad as a Green Card Holder

It is great to be a green card holder in many respects, but you should also be aware that you might fall into some traps as well. Some people work in the United States without the correct documentation, and that can be very costly to them. If they are caught without the proper forms, they may get deported back to their home country. 

Also, always remember to keep up with your documentation renewals. If your card expires, you might jeopardize your ability to get another one in the future. 

For more information on the immigration process and green cards, please post your legal needs for an UpCounsel attorney to provide you with more details.