Green cards refer to permanent residency cards that U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs) receive through family, employment, diversity lottery, refugee, or asylum petitions. Green card holders are not U.S. citizens, though most are eligible to become citizens five years from when they receive their green card. There are two types of green cards: a renewable, regular card that is issued for ten years and a conditional card that is valid for two years. Conditional green card holders must remove the conditions or their green card will expire after two years.
Determine whether you can renew your green card by filing an I-90. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services extends a grace period to LPRs with expired cards. You have abandoned your status if your green card has been expired for several years. Consult with an immigration attorney referred by the American Immigration Lawyers Association to address potential issues besides the expired card, such as if you have traveled outside of the U.S. for more than six months each year or if you have been convicted of felonies.
Gather all documents that you need to file your taxes, such as W-2 or 1099 forms from each employment and statements from your interest bearing bank accounts. If you are itemizing your deductions, then you need evidence to prove your calculations, like receipts that highlight your charitable donations. If you are a sole proprietor, you should file a Schedule C and report business related profits or losses.
File your federal and state taxes using your social security number. Pay any money that you owe the government. While it is a misdemeanor to reside in the U.S. with an expired green card, the Internal Revenue Service is not affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security. Not paying taxes can impact your green card renewal, but you likely will not receive contact from the IRS, unless you prepare your taxes incorrectly.
Organize all tax related information. Instead of requesting copies of your filing from the IRS, carefully store records of anything that you send to the federal and state government (if you must file a state income tax return). For example, if you are filing a 1040 electronically, print out copies of your submission along with confirmation that it was sent.
Avoid getting into problems with law enforcement officials. For instance, do not smuggle drugs, drive while intoxicated, or commit assault. If you get arrested while your green card is expired and your taxes are unpaid, you strengthen the government’s case that you should be deported. You will have to surrender your green card, driver’s license, social security card, and return to your country of origin.
There are several people with expired green cards that simply forgot the expiration date. You can avoid consequences of not renewing your green card by applying for U.S. citizenship. Once you become a naturalized citizen, you do not have to renew your status.
Also realize that many people who never had legal status (undocumented aliens), and thus, no valid social security number file taxes using an ITIN number.
Do not travel outside of the U.S. with an expired green card if you have unpaid taxes, as you will be denied entry by a customs official when you attempt to return.