Can I work if I lost my permanent resident card?

In this week's Consulta Migratoria® column I answer a question from a reader who wants to work while replacing her permanent resident card.

Each immigration case is different. Please consult with an immigration attorney for personalized legal advice before beginning any proceedings.

This is the column:

I have lost my permanent resident card. I am told that immigration charges $450 to replace it and that the process takes up to nine months. I need to work and I have my alien number and social security card. Could I get some kind of work permit while I get my new resident card? What do I need to do to get immigration to send me the card quickly? -Ana A.

Ana, as a permanent resident of the United States, you have authorization to work, but it is up to you to present an employer with the necessary documentation to prove a legal status that allows you to work in the country.

Even though you lost your green card, you may be able to get a job while you are waiting for your green card to be replaced.

There is no other work permit for you because you are already a permanent resident.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not issue work permits to permanent residents of the United States because these individuals are automatically authorized to work.

Here is what you need to do.

Permanent Resident Card Replacement

You will have to fill out and submit the Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Cardby mail or online as soon as possible.

Click here to learn about the process of replacing or renewing your U.S. Permanent Resident Card.

If you are experiencing financial hardship or have limited resources, you can apply for a fee waiver of the $450 fee for the processing fee charged by USCIS. You will have to file by mail if you apply for a fee waiver.

Processing times

The USCIS National Benefits Center is responsible for reviewing applications for replacement green cards. Currently, they are processing cases filed before January 2, 2016. In other words, as you were told, there is a wait of approximately 9 months.

USCIS may expedite the processing of your case if you demonstrate that you will suffer a severe financial loss, have a severe emergency situation, or for humanitarian reasons, among other USCIS expedited processing criteria.

Employment authorization

In addition to a U.S. permanent resident card, the USCIS allows a permanent resident to present to an employer different kinds of documents to prove his or her identity and employment authorization.

According to the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility VerificationThese are some of the accepted documents:

  1. A receipt from USCIS showing that you applied for a replacement green card. But you will have to present the actual document within 90 days from the date of hire.
  1. A card with a Social Security number, unless the card has one of the following restrictions:
  1. A driver's license or identification card issued by a state or unincorporated territory of the United States, provided it includes a photograph and the person's name, date of birth, sex, height, eye color, and address.
  1. An identity card issued by federal, state or local government agencies or entities, provided it includes a photograph and the person's name, date of birth, sex, height, eye color and address.
  1. A school identity card with a photograph.

Ana, if you have the documentation described above, you may be able to use some of those documents to prove your identity and employment authorization to your employer.

Please consult with an immigration attorney or a federally accredited representative before beginning any immigration proceedings.