If your green card is lost abroad get a transportation letter to return to U.S.

A permanent resident or immigrant seeking entry to the U.S. after a foreign travel must possess a valid passport with U.S.-related immigration documentation, such as a permanent resident card (aka “green card”) (Form I-551). These documents must be presented to a commercial carrier such as an airplane or ship for you to be allowed to board and to a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspector at a U.S. Port of entry for you to be admitted.

But what if you lost your green card abroad? There should be no need to panic if you had taken the necessary precautions. Before you travel, it is wise to take pictures with your mobile phone of your green card, passport, citizenship papers, driver’s license, and other valuable documents. It is also wise to make xerox copies of such documents, place them in an envelope, bring a set and place it in your carry on luggage and leave a set at home on top of your desk or a place accessible to someone you can trust. While these pictures or xerox copies will not necessarily be acceptable to an airplane or ship or to CBP, these documents will help you obtain a document, such as a transportation letter, from a US Embassy abroad, which you can present to a carrier and CBP.

A transportation letter may be issued by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office if a permanent resident has been outside the U.S. for less than one year to board a commercial carrier to return to the U.S. It is valid for 30 days for a one time entry.  It does not guarantee your admission to the U.S. Only a CBP inspector at a port of entry can inspect and admit you to the U.S.


A transportation letter may be issued where your Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) is outdated, lost, mutilated, stolen, expired, you never received a card, you applied to replace it but it has not been processed, or you are a conditional resident who filed a petition to remove the condition but it has not  been processed. A transportation letter may also be issued if you are a child born after your parent has been issued an immigrant visa, but before your parent has traveled to the U.S. and been admitted as a Permanent Resident, or you are a child born during the temporary visit abroad of your permanent resident mother, and your application for admission to the U.S. is made within two years of birth, and you are accompanied by a parent who is reentering the U.S. as a returning resident for the first time after your birth. A transportation letter may also be issued to a person who has been approved as a refugee.


Submit these documents, as applicable, to USCIS abroad to apply for a transportation letter:

  1. Form I-193, Application for Waiver of Passport and/or Visa, filled up and signed.
  2. Three passport-size (2” x 2”) photos (full face with white background).
  3. If your Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card, was lost, stolen, or mutilated, a notarized Affidavit of Loss.
  4. Your current passport.
  5. Certificate of arrival in the Philippines (or foreign country) from the airline, OR original or photocopy of used airline ticket/boarding pass for your most recent trip abroad.
  6. Confirmed flight schedule for return to the U.S., that is, airline or travel agency itinerary.
  7. U.S. identification cards, such as, State identification, driver’s license, employment badge, school identification, etc. (photocopies).
  8. If you are a Conditional Permanent Resident, evidence that a Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence, has been filed.
  9. If you are a child born after your parent has been issued an immigrant visa but before your parent has traveled to the U.S. or you are a child born during the temporary visit abroad of your Permanent Resident mother, submit all of the following: (a) Valid passport for you and your parent, (b) Your birth certificate from the National Statistics Office in the Philippines or other foreign government entity; (c) Your parent’s marriage contract, if married; (d) Your three passport-size photos; (e) Your parent’s Form I-551 or newly issued immigrant visa; (f) Your Parent’s Form I-327, Permit to Re-enter (if issued); (g) Proof of your birth, including photos (before, during, and after delivery); (h) hospital records (admission/discharge records, pre-natal records, hospital bills, etc.); and (i) Your parent’s used ticket or airline certificate showing departure from U.S. and arrival date abroad.


Check with a U.S. Embassy abroad on who specifically processes a transportation letter request. In the Philippines, the USCIS at the U.S. Embassy in Manila processes transportation letter requests.

The processing time for a transportation letter is 7 to 10 business days. There is no fee for a Transportation Letter request or issuance.

(Atty. Tipon has a Master of Laws degree from Yale Law School and a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines. His current practice focuses on immigration law and appellate criminal defense. He writes law books for the world’s largest law book publishing company and writes legal articles for newspapers. Listen to The Tipon Report which he co-hosts with son Noel, the senior partner of the Bilecki & Tipon Law Firm. It is the most witty, interesting, and useful radio program in Hawaii. KNDI 1270 AM band every Thursday at 7:30 a.m.  Atty. Tipon served as a U.S. Immigration Officer. He co-authored the best-seller “Immigration Law Service, 1st ed.,” an 8-volume practice guide for immigration officers and lawyers. Atty. Tipon has personally experienced the entire immigration process. He first came to the United States on a student/ exchange visitor visa to study at Yale. He returned to the Philippines to resume practicing law. He came again to the United States on a non-immigrant work visa to write law books, adjusted his status to that of a lawful permanent resident, and became a naturalized citizen. Atty. Tipon was born in Laoag City, Philippines. Tel. (808) 800-7856. Cell Phone (808) 225-2645.  E-Mail: [email protected] Websites: https://www.tiponlaw.com , https://www.hawaiianimmigrationattorney.com ,

https://www.bileckilawgroup.com. This article is a general overview of the subject matter discussed and is not intended as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established between the writer and readers relying upon the contents of this article.)


What’s Up Atty 2019 04 15 Green card lost abroad