How to Get Back into the USA with an Expired Green Card

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I rated this challenging because of the stress involved. USA customs officials are famous for being...er...unaccommodating.

Things You'll Need

  • a green card
  • legitimate status as USA resident alien
  • cash, credit card or a checking account
  • anti-anxiety meds

Be quizzical and a bit freaked out when the customs official informs you that your green card, which was guaranteed to never expire, has indeed expired. Sputter something about having no idea that this could happen, since when you got the darn thing, you were specifically told that green cards are for life. Indeed, if you don't keep it with you at all times, you are subject to arrest on the streets of the USA by any USA official who spots you for the alien that you are.

Do not squirm when the customs official stares you down and sneers, while informing you that they sent you a letter in 1990 informing you of the expiration of your card, and if you didn't receive it, it's your problem.

Watch in utter horror as he takes your official ID, your green card, and cuts it up in front of your eyes. Then follow him numbly as he leads you to a room where other people who look like they came from every corner of the earth are sitting on metal chairs around a room completely devoid of personality. Be prepared to wait on your chair for a long time.

If you are in an airport outside of the states, such as Toronto where US customs has a presence, your plane will take off without you. If you are traveling with other people, sometimes they too will miss their flight in a show of support. Sometimes, not.

When you finally get to stand in front of an anonymous desk in front of a person who behaves as if he/she thinks you are a terrorist, you will be interviewed. The purpose of the interview is not to determine if you are, indeed, a terrorist. But you do not know that. What you know is everyone is extremely hostile and threatening. It is possible that you will go to jail, you think.

You explain that you have lived in the states for more than 40 years as a tax-paying productive citizen and your son is a major in the army who has served in 2 wars. You are told, in that case you had 40 years to become a citizen, and you blew it.

Just as you're thinking they are ready to slap the handcuffs on, they offer you, in a very casual way, a piece of paper that includes a bill for just under $300.

If you pay this bill, miraculously you are not a terrorist and can enter the USA with a stern warning to get your act together and get a new green card. You pay the bill and wait for the next plane to the states.

As soon as you are airborne and drinks are being served, you order a double.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never talk back to a customs official.
  • Remain calm at all times, at least outwardly
  • Be patient. You'll get back into the USA. They don't want you in Toronto, Turkey, or wherever you are.
  • Check your green card and update your passport. These people can be real jerks.

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