A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration lawyer. We serve clients in all U.S. states and overseas countries. (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Traveling with Expired Green Card Can Ruin Your Vacation

On Thanksgiving Eve, a family friend called me about an "immigration emergency" from the airport of Santa Domingo.  She was refused entry to Dominican Republic because her U.S. green card had expired several months ago.  While I can understand why a busy professional like her could easily overlook something like renewing the green card, the Dominican officer at the airport vehemently refused to let her through.  I explained to my friend that there isn't much I can do regarding the immigration policy of another country, except maybe try to speak to the officer on the phone.  

Politely I explained to the Dominican immigration officer that, as far as the U.S. is concerned, failure to renew one's green card is only a technical violation.  A person doesn't lose her U.S. permanent resident status simply because she forgot to timely file for an extension.  In fact, the U.S. immigration officers routinely allow residents with expired green cards to return with only a verbal warning. Well, this Dominican officer basically told me that whatever I said may work in the U.S. but not in his country.  

It would not have been so bad had my friend been traveling alone.  No, she actually was traveling with her whole family, who are all U.S. citizens.  They were on their way to a family vacation in Dominican Republic.  The family asked for humanitarian consideration, requesting that my friend be "paroled" in for one night so that she could obtain a transit letter from the U.S. Embassy the following day to prove her status.  The answer was no. I even went as far as asking the officer to let my friend spend the night in the international area of the airport so that the family could get the transit letter on her behalf.  He wouldn't budge.  What happened at the end?  The family had to spend their Thanksgiving on the airplane flying back home.  

Since August 1989, U.S. green cards have been issued with a 10-year expiration date.  It is the card holder's responsibility to remember to renew the card within six months of expiration.  What if you don't?  Well, you probably won't get arrested for it.  You probably could also talk your way back to the U.S.  But other countries may not be as forgiving.  So don't travel internationally with an expired green card - You may get sent back home when you least expect it, just like my friend! 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I read this entry with interest because I have booked a trip to Spain in Sept while my I-90 green card renewal (my Green Card is expired) would still be pending. What I don't understand is why Dominican Republic wouldn't allow her to enter on the account that her Green card was expired. I mean, the Green Card proofs only her status for entering and staying in the U.S., not visiting Dominican Republic. Why would Dominican Republic concern itself with her immigration status in the U.S.? Is this common for most country, do you know?