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The complete guide to the I-551 stamp

If you have applied for Permanent Residence and you have not yet received your Green Card, or your Green Card is about to expire and you are in the process of renewing it, you must obtain an I-551 stamp. Learn more about the I-551 stamp here.

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Form I-551 or the U.S. Permanent Resident card (also known as a Green Card) proves that foreign nationals have been approved for permanent residency in the United States. Green Card holders can legally live and work in the U.S. indefinitely. 

If you have applied for Permanent Residence and you have not yet received your Green Card, or your Green Card is about to expire and you are in the process of renewing it, you must obtain an I-551 stamp. 

Read on to find out more information about the application process for I-551 stamps. 

What is an I-551 stamp?

An I-551 stamp is a temporary evidence stamp that proves the permanent residency status of foreign nationals. When nonimmigrants are authorized to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis, they must have a valid Green Card at all times. Green Cards are valid for 10 years.

When a permanent resident card expires or becomes lost or stolen, a renewal card must be issued. Form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card) is the USCIS form foreign nationals must use to renew or replace their Green Cards. It can take up to six months for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process and approve Form I-90. 

Permanent residents who applied for a renewal Green Card but have not yet received their card must obtain an I-551 stamp. This stamp serves as temporary evidence that foreign nationals are in the process of renewing or replacing their Green Cards and that they are authorized to live and work in the United States. The stamp is issued by USCIS and is placed in a permanent resident’s valid passport.

In cases when a new immigrant first arrives in the United States, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will issue a machine-readable immigrant visa (MRIV). This admission stamp is placed in an immigrant’s passport and indicates the lawful permanent resident status of the individual. It also indicates the date the new immigrant was admitted into the United States.

Typically, an MRIV will state the following: “Upon endorsement, serves as temporary I-551 evidencing permanent residence for 1 year.” A passport that contains an MRIV indicates the individual’s permanent residence status for 1 year from the date that he or she was admitted to the country. 

When is an I-551 stamp needed?

Permanent residents may need an I-551 stamp when their Green Card expires, when their permanent resident card has been lost, stolen, damaged or if any of the information on the document must be updated (e.g., the name needs to be changed as a result of marriage or an address change).

While permanent residents are legally permitted to live and work in the United States indefinitely, it is important that they have a valid, unexpired Green Card. For example, if a permanent resident travels outside of the country and their Green Card expires while abroad, an I-551 stamp proves to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials that you are authorized to enter the country. If a foreign national intends to apply for a job or a driver’s license before they receive an initial or renewal Green Card, an I-551 temporary evidence stamp will also be needed. 

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When to obtain an I-551 stamp

Permanent residents are eligible to begin the Green Card renewal process by filing a Form I-90 (Application to Renew Permanent Resident Card) with USCIS six months before the expiration date listed on the document. They may also file a Form I-90 when their card has expired or when it has become lost, stolen or damaged.

Permanent residents may obtain an I-551 stamp when their Green Card is about to expire or has already expired or when their Green Card has been lost, stolen, damaged or the information on the document must be changed. To obtain a temporary evidence stamp, a permanent resident must first complete and file Form I-90.  

How to obtain an I-551 stamp

To obtain an I-551 stamp, permanent residents can visit their local USCIS office. To do so, they should schedule an InfoPass appointment with USCIS, which can be done on the USCIS website.

Alternatively, applications may be filed in person at a local USCIS office or filed via mail; however, scheduling an InfoPass appointment is recommended, as it is typically the most convenient option. 

What documents are required for an I-551 stamp? 

To obtain an I-551 temporary evidence stamp, U.S. permanent residents will need to submit the following documents and proof of their immigration status and identity: 

  • A valid passport

  • An InfoPass appointment notice, which can be printed from the USCIS website (if applicable)

  • Form I-90 receipt notice (issued by USCIS)

  • Proof of residence with the jurisdiction of the USCIS office

  • A copy of the Green Card the applicant is attempting to replace (if available)

  • A copy of a date-stamped ASC appointment notice that proves biometrics have been obtained (if applicable)

A permanent resident seeking to obtain an I-551 stamp may also be asked to provide additional documentation demonstrating their needs for a temporary evidence stamp in the case of an emergency, like the death of a family member in another country or a necessary medical procedure abroad.

To prove an emergency situation, permanent residents may provide a copy of a deceased family member’s death certificate, an appointment scheduled with a doctor abroad or information for a flight that has been booked.

To find out exactly what documentation is required for an I-551 stamp, inquiries can be made on the USCIS website. 

How much does an I-551 stamp cost? 

While there is no cost associated with the I-551 temporary evidence stamp issued in a passport, there is a fee for Form I-90 amounting to $455. In addition to the $455 fee for Form I-90, there is also an $85 biometrics fee, if a biometrics appointment is required. 

How long is an I-551 stamp valid?

An I-551 temporary evidence of permanent residence status is usually valid for six months to 1 year. The validity period varies and depends on the specific circumstances of each individual.

The expiration date on an applicant’s passport can also impact the length of time the stamp’s validity. For instance, if the applicant’s passport will only be valid for two months, then the I-551 stamp will also likely be valid for two months.  

The takeaway

An I-551 temporary evidence stamp serves as proof of a foreign national’s permanent resident status in the U.S. while their Green Card is being renewed or reissued. Filing the proper forms and following due procedure is key to getting your I-551 stamp as quickly as possible.

For more resources on how to navigate your new life in the U.S., visit Nova Credit’s resource library where you can learn about everything from renting an apartment to finding the best credit cards for non-citizens.

Moved to the U.S. from Australia, India or the UK?

Put your international credit score to work in the United States

Access your free international credit report to see which U.S. credit cards you could already be eligible for. No SSN is required to start your U.S credit history.

Select Country...

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