What is a I551 Stamp?
When a permanent resident with a valid green card enters the U.S. border, a U.S. customs officer shall stamp the passport of foreign origin with a stamp. This stamp indicates your permanent resident status valid up to 1 year. This stamp is also referred as Form I-551 or 511 Stamp. This period is from the date of admission to the country. The endorsement of the stamp is valid as long as the resident can display a passport with a non-expired I-551 stamp. An I-551 stamp is meant to be served as a temporary proof of legal residence. Individuals who receive the stamp should receive an official green card via mail soon after arriving to the United States.
If a permanent resident is traveling into the U.S. with an I-94 containing a valid I-551 stamp as proof of legal permanent resident status, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) shall continue to issue the temporary I-551 stamps on the I-94 for travelers to indicate legal residence in the United States. As long as you have a valid stamp, you have the right to live and work in the United States unless the job requires U.S. citizenship.
In the recent years, permanent residents had to resort to obtaining an I-551 stamp more frequently due to the lengthy processing time for I-90. I-90 is an application to replace a permanent resident card. If the resident card is nearing the expiration date, applicants should apply for the replacement as early as possible and avoid the need to get an I-551.
How do I Obtain a I-551?
Before obtaining a I-551 stamp, individuals should be on their way to obtaining a green card. If you have not started your green card process, our green card page illustrates methods of obtaining permanent residence. If you are entitled to legal residence, you can obtain the stamp at a local USCIS office by scheduling an InfoPass appointment.
To make an InfoPass appointment, applicants must have a computer with internet and access the appointment section of the USCIS. InfoPass appointments are free, so applicant should be cautious of any private services claiming to provide expedited InfoPass appointment services. InfoPass appointments can occur in the United States or outside the country. However, appointment availability may differ significantly among locations as the queue in each location varies. If you cannot find a service type through the website, you can contact the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 to seek assistance.
To apply for an I551 stamp, the following documentation are applicable:
- Valid passport;
- Appointment notice (if available)
- Form I-90 receipt notice;
- Proof of residence within the jurisdiction of the USCIS office;
- Copy of expired/lost green card (if available);
- Documents evidencing the need for the I-551 stamp, if the request is based on an emergency walk-in (examples: documents indicating family death or severe illness, travel request using company letterhead)
Please check with your local USCIS office as the required document list is subject to change.
Can I Get an Emergency I-551 Stamp?
In the case of an unforeseen emergency, applicants can file a request to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services under “special situations.” An example of a valid special situation includes natural catastrophes such as a hurricane preventing an applicant from completing the immigration process.
As previously mentioned, a valid cause to obtain an emergency I-551 stamp for permanent residents is when the processing time for a green card takes too long. To prevent this emergency situation, applicants should check the current USCIS processing times.
In the case of emergency, applicants can request an interim evidence of permanent residence stamp from any USCIS field office. While applicants are encouraged to make appointments using InfoPass appointment tool, I-551 stamps are issued for walk-in requests. However, applicants must carry evidence supporting the cause of an emergency stamp. For example, if there’s a death in the family causing the permanent resident to travel overseas to attend the funeral, you may be required to obtain a death certificate of the deceased family from the hospital.
How Do I Obtain an I-551 Stamp?
For foreign nationals seeking to immigrate to the United States, there are several methods to immigrate and get a Form I551 in order to permanently reside in the country. Typically, foreigners come into the U.S. on a non-immigrant or immigrant visa.
An example of a non-immigrant visa is a temporary worker visa, H-1B. Although H-1B Visas are meant for temporary nonimmigrant employment in the United States, it is recognized by the U.S. government as a dual intent visa. This means that H-1B Visa holders may apply for a green card while in the non-immigrant status and they do not need to maintain a foreign address.
An example of an immigrant visa is the Diversity Visa Lottery. The U.S. Department of State randomly selects 50,000 applicants from various countries. The lottery gives an opportunity for foreign nationals who would not otherwise have the financial resources to enter the U.S.
Regardless of the path taken to the permanent resident status, applicants who have successfully become U.S. permanent residents can receive an I-551 stamp on their foreign passports to indicate the legal status.