I-551 Temporary Evidence stamps serve as temporary legal proof that a foreign national is authorized to live and work in the United States while waiting for a new Green Card. The stamp is issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS) and placed in the person's passport to demonstrate that they are in the country lawfully. It is temporary because "Form I-551" is the formal designation of a Green Card, proof of lawful permanent residence.
Like the Green Card, the I-551 temporary evidence stamp serves as proof of the right to unlimited residency and the right to obtain a work permit. It also demonstrates proof of eligibility for government assistance, including Medicare benefits, for the right to study at a U.S. university, and for federal student loans. The stamp is also useful (and sometimes required) for obtaining business and commercial licenses.
Who Needs an I-551 Temporary Evidence Stamp?
I-551 temporary evidence stamps are initially given to people from other countries who have applied for permanent residence in the U.S. and are waiting to receive their first Green Card. If they have applied for a Green Card in advance, then upon arrival in the U.S., they will be given a machine-readable immigrant visa (MRIV) that is placed in their passport and contains the following phrase:
UPON ENDORSEMENT SERVES AS TEMPORARY I-551 EVIDENCING PERMANENT RESIDENCE FOR 1 YEAR.
This serves as proof that the person is lawfully in the U.S. It is valid for one year because USCIS may take up to a year to process the Green Card.
I-551 temporary evidence stamps are also necessary after a Green Card expires while waiting to receive a new one. Green Cards must be renewed after ten years, and the USCIS can take six months to a year to process them–during which time the foreign national might be asked to show proof of lawful residence. Rather than face the uncertainty of not being able to show proof, it's best to apply for the I-551 a few months before the Green Card's expiration date by filling out the I-90 Application To Replace Permanent Resident Card form. The USCIS will accept the form as early as six months before the Green Card expires.
An I-551 stamp will serve as a substitute for the Green Card if the person needs to travel outside the U.S. or apply for benefits while the new Green Card is being processed. It will also be necessary if the Green Card needs to be updated due to a change of name (through marriage, for example) or address; or if it is lost, stolen, damaged, or destroyed.
How Do I Get an I-551 Stamp?
Like a Green Card, the I-551 is obtained at a USCIS field office. USCIS offices do not allow walk-ins; you must make an appointment by calling the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 to be scheduled for an in-person meeting. You can also submit a request online for an in-person meeting. A USCIS official will review the online request and call you back to schedule an appointment if needed.
Get Help From an Experienced Palm Beach Immigration Attorney
To schedule a consultation with experienced Palm Beach immigration attorney Jacqueline Delgado, call Delgado Law Group at (561) 342-1429 or schedule a consultation here.