Have you lost your green card abroad? Here’s what to do

Legal residents of the United States need a travel document, sometimes referred to as a “boarding foil” if they have lost their green card abroad before their international flight. Here is the step-by-step process of how to obtain one.

Having your green card lost or stolen can be a stressful process. The USCIS can help you with this problem if you are in the United States, but when the situation occurs outside of the United States, the USCIS loses its jurisdiction. However, you’ll still have access to the online account portal provided by the USCIS. As such here are the steps that one should take if they need to make it back to the United States on their booked flight, but are lacking a green card (because it has gone missing).

How to get back to the United States

As mentioned, even though you are abroad, you probably still have a smartphone or Internet access at your hotel or accommodation. You’ll need to locate the USCIS online payment system through the website and pay the fee for what is called the I-131A Application for Travel Document. In other words, it does no good trying to fill out an I-90 Replacement application while abroad.

Your applying for a travel document because you lost your green card, and in order to board an international flight back to the U.S., you need to be able to show airport security that you either have A) green card, or B) a travel document. Otherwise you would confuse CBP officers when you arrive in the U.S. by showing them your foreign passport when in fact you’re already a legal resident (and this would further complicate your admission).

You must file the I-131A in person, at a U.S. consulate. So even though you are paying the fee electronically, you are hand-delivering the application to a U.S. consular office. When you appear in person to file the I-131A, you must also bring evidence that you paid the fee, such as an email confirmation page.

What to do next

Once you have been granted access to the embassy or U.S. consulate, you’ll need to speak with an officer or somebody who can help you with your green card situation. Usually there is security at every U.S. consulate, and during the current Covid-19 pandemic, there are limited appointments available. It’s a good idea if you have an international plan to call ahead or use the hotel phone to let the consulate know you are coming and to avoid having to travel all the way there only to be denied entry.

Speak with an officer or attendant once inside. Make sure to clearly explain how and when you lost your green card, and give details of your flight back to the Untied States to let them know that you will be needing a travel document. Finally, make sure you get a verbal confirmation that the consulate will process the I-131A.

USCIS Adjudication

The State Department (DOS) will forward the completed application back to the USCIS for adjudication. After reaching a decision, the USCIS will notify the embassy or consulate where the applicant filed the Form I-131A. If the application was approved, the applicant may procure a Travel Document at the same embassy or consulate they originally visited and will be notified for their appointment to pick up the travel document. If the application is denied, the applicant will have no grounds for appeal. The whole process usually takes around 2-3 weeks.

The filing fee for the I-131A that is paid electronically to the USCIS is $360 USD. Green card holders should stay in one place so they are relatively close the embassy/consulate so they can pick up their travel document when it’s ready.

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