Some 50,000 foreign nationals with approved Lawful Permanent Residency (Green Card) applications have been waiting for months to receive their cards, which provide proof of lawful permanent resident status. Without these cards, the foreign nationals will have difficulty travelling internationally and proving employment authorization. Causing further stress to these individuals is the requirement under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that permanent residents should always carry their Green Cards.
How did this happen? USCIS cancelled its printing contract with an outside vendor, creating a delay in printing not only Green Cards, but also 75,000 Employment Authorization Documents. Once the printing was brought in-house with USCIS, it did not keep up with demand. The ongoing threat of USCIS employee furloughs and budgetary constraints has only exacerbated the issues. Like a Greek tragedy where everything goes wrong that can go wrong, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic closed USCIS Field Offices, which made it impossible for individuals with approved cases to get temporary I-551 stamps proving permanent residence, foreclosing another way for them to prove their status.
Concerns over the printing problems have been raised and even litigated with respect to EAD cards. In Subramanya v. USCIS, a Consent Order was issued that set a specific schedule for EAD card production and adopted an interim rule that allows individuals with certain approved EAD applications to use their I-797 Notices of Approval as List C documents in the Form I-9 employment verification process. But that Order does not apply to and does not help those with approved Green Card applications.
Individuals with approved Form I-485 Adjustment of Status applications, but whose Green Cards have not been printed, can consider taking the following steps:
- Call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 and request an appointment at a USCIS Field Office to obtain a temporary Form I-551 stamp (sometimes called an Alien Documentation, Identification and Telecommunications, or ADIT, stamp) as evidence of lawful permanent residence for purposes of employment or travel. Callers should eventually be connected to a “live” representative.
- The USCIS Ombudsman is sending weekly spreadsheets to USCIS confirming applicants whose cards are awaiting production. Requests for case assistance can be submitted to the Ombudsman at https://www.dhs.gov/topic/cis-ombudsman/forms/7001.
- If the Green Card is needed for employment authorization and USCIS will not schedule an appointment for a temporary Form I-551 stamp, try the Department of Justice Immigrant and Employee Rights (IER) Section hotline at 1-800-255-7688 (for employees) or 1-800-255-8155 (for employers) for assistance. In some circumstances, the IER can intervene with USCIS to seek additional guidance.
Those waiting for a Green Card renewal or replacement (not an initial Green Card) and have filed a Form I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card can use the receipt as a List A document for Form I-9 employment verification purposes (for up to 90 days). The receipt also may be an option for international travel, but first ask your immigration lawyer if travel is advisable.