Immigrants

7 min read

September 23, 2021

The I-551 Stamp: Everything You Need to Know

A thorough guide to applying for this temporary evidence of permanent residence in the United States.

US immigration comes with its own set of technical jargon. Whether you’re a to-be immigrant or a lawful permanent resident, getting familiar with all of it at once may get understandably frustrating because of the sheer abundance of it all. 

While the glossary on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website offers a brief introduction to it, here’s our in-depth guide to extending the most important document for an immigrant: Form I-551.

You might’ve come across the terms ‘Form I-551’ and ‘I-551 stamp’ while reading about immigration to the US and the Green Card. Simply put, Form I-551 is the USCIS’s formal term for a Green Card. Contrary to what many think, Form I-551 is not a form you fill to get the Green Card, but the Green Card itself, while I-551 stamps are temporary versions of Form I-551.

Under what circumstances can you get an I-551 stamp? What are the criteria for it? And how is it different from a Green Card? Read on to find the answers to all your questions.

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What Is An I-551 Stamp?

The I-551 stamp serves as temporary evidence of lawful permanent resident status. It is an adjunct to Form I-551, that is, the Green Card.

New immigrants are provided with machine-readable immigrant visas (MRIVs) by the USCIS for entry into the United States. These MRIVs can either have I-551 stamps or text that reads, “Upon endorsement serves as temporary I-551 evidencing permanent residence for 1 year”. 

Your passport is then stamped by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with an admission stamp that indicates permanent resident status and marks your date of entry into the US. You are then permitted to work and reside in the US for one year and within this period you’d receive your permanent Green Card, too.

The I-551 stamp is also used as a start of the renewal process of your Green Card that is either expired or about to expire. The renewal process must take place at least six months prior to the date of expiration. However, in case you need to travel when it is being processed, an I-551 can come in handy. 

Who Is Eligible For An I-551 Stamp?

Any lawful permanent resident of the United States is eligible for an I-551 stamp as temporary evidence of permanent residence. 

You can apply for an I-551 stamp if:

  • Your existing Green Card is lost, stolen, or damaged;
  • Your Green Card is to be renewed, and a temporary one is needed in the meantime.

How To Get An I-551 Stamp

I-551 Application Process

  1. Schedule an in-person appointment by contacting USCIS at 800-375-5283;
  2. State your reasons clearly for requiring an I-551 stamp;
  3. Visit your local USCIS office on the assigned date.

Note: For people residing inside the United States, the USCIS no longer allows scheduling an appointment online using InfoPass. But, residents outside the United States can select an international USCIS office with jurisdiction for their residence to schedule an InfoPass appointment.

I-551 Stamp: Documents Required

  1. Valid passport;
  2. InfoPass appointment slip;
  3. Form I-797 (serves as a Form I-90 receipt);
  4. Proof of permanent residence;
  5. Copy of the Green Card to be replaced (if available);
  6. Copy of a date-stamped ASC appointment notice (if applicable).

Note: In case of emergencies, you’ll need to carry additional documents to your I-551 stamp appointment to prove your urgency to get a temporary I-551 instead of waiting for renewal. This can include travel tickets, itinerary, death certificates of a family member, or a doctor’s letter indicating an illness. To get assistance on your specific case and for detailed information about it, you can try putting up a query on the USCIS website itself, using the chatbot.

I-551 Stamp: Costs

The I-551 application doesn’t require you to pay any direct fee. But, in case of expired, lost, damaged, or stolen Green Cards, it is mandatory to fill in Form I-90, which will cost you $445.

FAQs 

How long does it take to get an I-551 stamp?

There is no fixed duration for the application process. In the case of a lost or stolen Green Card or renewal of the current one, you can get an I-551 stamp after scheduling an appointment with the USCIS. This approximately takes 2 to 4 weeks. If you’re a new immigrant, you’ll get an I-551 stamp or similar printed notation on your MRIV itself while the USCIS processes your permanent 10-year Green Card.

Can you travel with an I-551 stamp?

As long as the stamp is not past the expiration date on the CBP admission stamp on your visa, you are free to travel. 

Is an I-551 stamp the same as a Green Card?

The I-551 stamp is not the same as a Green Card. Rather, it is similar to it. As mentioned, it is only a temporary version of the actual Form I-551.

How long is an I-551 stamp valid for?

USCIS issues I-551 stamps for six to twelve months. The actual duration given depends on the time it takes to process your actual Green Card, your individual circumstances, and the validity of your passport. If your passport expires in five months, then your I-551 stamp loses its validity in five months, too.

Can you get an I-551 stamp online?

No, you cannot get the I-551 stamp online. Someone from your local USCIS field office will have to do it for you. 


Without adequate information, US immigration can sometimes be a nightmare to navigate. However, with sufficient knowledge of their internal mechanisms and the functionality of their documentation, the immigration system can also be a cakewalk. We hope we’ve been of help in making the process smoother for you. Good luck!

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Akash Kalra
Akash Kalra is a writer, podcaster, and first-generation entrepreneur, as the founder of Izart Content Services: Home of Data Driven Storytellers.

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