Do I Have to Carry My Green Card Around?

Do I have to carry my green card with me?”
Many people ask this question after becoming a permanent resident. The official answer is: Yes, you do. In fact, Form I-797 that came with your fresh new green card says:

When you receive your card you must carry it with you at all times if you are 18 or older. It is the law.

So there you go. The perfect answer.

However, I’m not sure how many people actually do that. Everyone knows, or should know, to bring their green card with them when travelling abroad, some may do so with domestic trips too, but carrying a green card in a wallet or purse everyday seems like an overkill.

The No. 1 reason for not carrying a green card appears to be the fear of losing it. Although a lost card can be easily replaced, the mere idea of waiting for it to arrive in the mail, again, could bring back nightmares. If you are one of those who waited 10 years for their I-485 to be approved, you know what I’m talking about. The legislators who made up that rule obviously didn’t have to go through the run-around, so they didn’t care.

Another reason, I suppose, is that people don’t see a need for it. How many times were you ever required to show your green card? Other than international travels, there are very few occasions. Even if you do need to use your green card, such as when applying for a home loan, you most likely will be notified ahead of time. Immigration raid in work places may be all over the media, but in reality, it is still a low probability event unless you work in an industry that draws the attention of ICE agents on a regular basis.

Having said that, however, I’m in no way suggesting that you break the law by not carrying your green card :-) If you do decide – at your own risk – that you’d rather leave it in a safe place instead of your wallet, you should make several copies and save them in different places. Also make sure at least one other person knows the whereabout of your original green card. Some people carry a photocopy of the card with them, which might turn out to be a good idea sometimes.

8 thoughts on “Do I Have to Carry My Green Card Around?

  1. Pingback: New Green Card, RFID, and Security Concerns | Immigration Road Blog

  2. newb

    That’s something that I also found bizzare about my green card. It came with a little foil envelope to prevent wireless communication with it. I think it’s just wiser to keep a copy of the original in one’s wallet, and keep the original in a safe place, locked, and in that little foil-envelope. As has been mentioned you’ll most likely only need it when applying for a loan, opening a bank account, or having an employer verify your status.

  3. Pinki

    Does anyone have idea what happens if your case go to Immigration Fraud Prevention Unit? And how long it takes to solve?

  4. Joey

    Fraud prevention?
    If your case went there, probably there is a reason. I depends on why your case went to fraud identification..you should be only worried if you have done something.

  5. Jane C

    What is so hard about obeying the law? I always carried mine. It is against the law to make copies of it, (I’m not talking about a photo copy)

    You should make a photo copy of it and keep the photo copy in a safe place in case you misplace your actual green card so that you have something while you wait for your new one.

    You should ALWAYS carry your green card with you, it’s the law!

    If it is stolen or lost, make sure to report it to your local police department so that they have record of it, that alone will save you a ton of headaches.

  6. paul choi

    A photo copy is no good. CPB will need the actual card. No matter where that card is located. They detained my wife in san ysidro while I drove to LA to get the card. She spent 6 hours in “Jail”. I know it doesn’t make sense, they can see on their computer that she has a valid green card, they did give us the option to pay $450 for a new application which also doesn’t make sense, OK we pay $450 and you release my wife because you know that she is already a green card holder and is approved but still won’t physically have a green card but thats ok because we paid the fine. I told her to always have it next to the drivers license. One agent was laughing at us because we had a copy of her green card, it was kind of funny if you think about it. Why carry a photo copy when you have the original.

  7. IR_Blog Post author

    Paul,

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. It is a real example to demonstrate the importance of carrying the actual green card. Having photocopies in a safe place can make life easier when there is a need to file for replacement, but it is in no way an alternative when green card is required, especially when travelling.

    I know people who carry a photocopy everyday but always bring the original green card whenever they are out of town.

    Again, the safest approach is to always carry the original green card.

  8. Achilles

    Don’t worry about I just got my GC and I was illegal for over 20 years,never had problem before.I even got stopped by the police I gave them my fake SS # for a criminal check, and I was told I was all set.LOL.They never asked for GC.

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