“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.