How can a permanent resident return to the U.S. if they lose their green card abroad?

When a permanent resident travels outside the United States, he or she should have documentation on hand to prove that he or she is authorized to re-enter the country. But what happens if the green card is lost or stolen while abroad?

For situations like this, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) created a new form that allows lawful permanent residents to apply for a travel document (or documentation for transportation) if they are returning to the United States after a temporary trip abroad.

This is the Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Application for Travel Document). This is a temporary document that the individual can present to the airline to be allowed to travel back to the United States.

The document is only granted to a permanent resident under the following circumstances:

  • You are returning from a temporary trip abroad of less than one year's duration, and your Green Card was lost, stolen or destroyed.
  • You are returning from a temporary trip abroad of less than two years' duration, and your Reentry Permit was lost, stolen or destroyed.

How to request Transportation Documentation

To file Form I-131A, the permanent resident will need to pay the filing fee through the USCIS website and then file his or her application in person at a U.S. embassy or consulate. In doing so, he/she will need to bring evidence that he/she paid the fee.

It will take approximately two weeks for the embassy or consulate to issue the transport documentation.

This document proves to the transportation company that the person is authorized to travel to the United States.

Upon arrival in the country, the customs agent will inspect the permanent resident's documents and decide whether to admit him or her or grant him or her an entry permit ("parole") to the United States.

Filing a Form I-131A does not give a permanent resident a new Green Card. To obtain a new Green Card, you will need to file Form I-90If you do not have a Permanent Resident Card, apply for a Replacement Permanent Resident Card, and pay the filing fee.

Currently, the fee to file Form I-131A is $$360 and must be paid electronically, using a credit or debit card or a U.S. bank account through the online payment system. There is no biometric service fee.

There is no fee waiver for this form and USCIS does not issue fee refunds if the application is not approved.