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Understanding Green Card Requirements: Do Permanent Residents Need to Carry Their Green Card at All Times?

As a permanent resident of the United States, you might wonder whether it is necessary to carry your green card with you at all times. The answer is yes, and understanding the legal requirements behind this mandate is crucial for avoiding potential penalties.

Legal Obligation Under INA 264(e)

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Section 264(e) states that every "alien" aged eighteen and over must carry their green card or alien registration receipt card "at all times" and have it in their personal possession. Failure to comply with this requirement is considered a misdemeanor and can result in fines, imprisonment, or both upon conviction.

Importance of Compliance

Carrying your green card is essential for proving your lawful permanent resident status in various situations, including:

  • Travel: It is required when re-entering the United States from abroad or when traveling domestically by air or sea.

  • Employment Verification: Some employers may require proof of work eligibility, and your green card serves as valid documentation.

  • Interaction with Law Enforcement: Presenting your green card to law enforcement officials upon request helps confirm your legal immigration status.

Tips for Compliance

To ensure compliance with the green card requirement:

  1. Keep it Secure: Safeguard your green card against loss, theft, or damage by storing it in a secure location when not in use, and making a copy as a backup in case it gets lost.

  2. Renew on Time: Keep your green card valid by renewing it before it expires to avoid disruptions in work or travel.

  3. Understand Exceptions: Familiarize yourself with situations where carrying your green card may not be feasible, such as engaging in water-based activities or situations where carrying identification poses safety risks.


While carrying your green card at all times may seem burdensome, it is a legal requirement that comes with significant consequences for non-compliance. By understanding the obligation outlined in INA 264(e) and taking proactive measures to ensure compliance, you can navigate your status as a permanent resident with confidence and peace of mind.

Are you unsure about your green card status or facing challenges related to compliance? The experienced immigration attorneys at Ruttle Law are here to provide guidance and support. Contact us today for personalized assistance tailored to your needs.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Immigration laws and regulations are subject to change. Please seek the advice of an immigration attorney for specific guidance related to your situation.

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