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Form I-551 Detailed Explanation

Form I-551, commonly known as the Green Card, is essential for immigrants in the United States. It serves as proof of permanent resident status, allowing individuals to live and work in the country. This guide offers a detailed explanation of Form I-551, covering its purpose, eligibility criteria, and usage.

Understanding Form I-551

What is Form I-551?

Form I-551 stands out from typical immigration forms. For starters, it’s not even a form. Form I-551 is the official name for a green card. If you look at the upper left-hand corner of the back of your green card, you’ll see that it says “FORM I-551” at the top. This designation signifies your status as a permanent resident of the United States and grants you the right to work and travel freely.

Who Needs Form I-551?

When applying for a green card or adjusting your status, you simultaneously request Form I-551. Upon approval of your green card application, you receive Form I-551 as part of your permanent residency process.

Eligibility Criteria for Form I-551

You must meet certain criteria, including but not limited to:

  • Having a qualifying family relationship with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Employment-based eligibility
  • Refugee or asylum status
  • Diversity lottery selection

Each category has its own specific requirements and documentation, so it’s important to consult a detailed filing form I-485 guide to ensure you meet all necessary criteria.

Temporary I-551 and Its Uses

What is a Temporary I-551?

A Temporary I-551 is a provisional document issued to individuals who are awaiting their official permanent resident card, also known as a green card. This temporary document is often in the form of a stamp in your passport, known as the Alien Documentation, Identification & Telecommunications (ADIT) stamp. It serves as proof of your lawful permanent resident (LPR) status for up to one year from the date of your entry into the United States.

How to Obtain a Temporary I-551

To obtain a Temporary I-551, you will typically receive a machine-readable immigrant visa (MRIV) in your passport when you are approved for permanent residency from outside the United States. Upon your arrival in the U.S., a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent will endorse your passport with the ADIT stamp. If you lose your green card or it is significantly damaged, you can also request a Temporary I-551 by contacting the USCIS Contact Center and scheduling an appointment.

Validity and Limitations of Temporary I-551

The Temporary I-551 is valid for up to one year from the date of your entry into the United States. It allows you to live, work, and travel as if you had your official green card. However, it is important to note that this temporary document is not a substitute for the official permanent resident card. Employers can use your temporary I-551 as proof of immigration status for your onboarding paperwork, but they will need to update their records once you receive your official green card.

Using Form I-551

Employment Authorization

Form I-551, also known as the Green Card, serves as proof of your permanent resident status in the United States and authorizes you to work. Employers should accept the Form I-551 as a “List A” document, which verifies both your identity and employment authorization. If you have a temporary I-551 stamp, it can also be used for employment purposes until you receive your official Green Card.

Traveling with Form I-551

When traveling internationally, your Form I-551 allows you to re-enter the United States as a lawful permanent resident. It is crucial to carry your Green Card with you at all times when traveling. If you have a temporary I-551 stamp, it will serve the same purpose, but be mindful of its expiration date to avoid any travel issues.

Replacing a Lost or Stolen Form I-551

If your Form I-551 is lost or stolen, you must file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. While waiting for your new card, you can request a temporary I-551 stamp from USCIS. This stamp will be placed in your passport and will serve as proof of your permanent resident status until you receive your new Green Card.

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Common Issues and Solutions

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Delays in Receiving Form I-551

Experiencing delays in receiving your Form I-551 can be frustrating. Proactive case management is essential to avoid unnecessary waiting times. If you find yourself in this situation, consider the following steps:

  1. Check your application status online through the USCIS website.
  2. Contact the USCIS Contact Center for updates.
  3. Ensure all your documents are complete and submitted correctly.

Mistakes on Form I-551

If you notice any errors, it’s crucial to act quickly. You should:

  • File Form I-90 to correct any mistakes.
  • Provide supporting documents to validate the corrections needed.
  • Follow up with USCIS to ensure the corrections are processed.

Renewing Form I-551

To avoid any lapse in your permanent resident status, follow these steps:

  1. File Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, at least six months before your current card expires.
  2. Pay the required fees and submit the necessary documents.
  3. Attend any required biometrics appointments.

Understanding Form I-551

Form I-551, also called the green card, is very important for people trying to live in the United States. It shows that you are a legal resident and can stay and work in the U.S. It’s like your ID. Learn where to find it, how to use it, and why it’s important to keep it safe and updated.

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