Addressing Green Cards Issued In Error by USCIS

An individual seeking lawful permanent resident status in the United States may wait several years for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to issue the lawful permanent resident card (green card). On occasion however, the USCIS can erroneously issue a green card before an immigrant visa is available for the individual. In such a case, an individual must take action to resolve this error to avoid potential future immigration complications.

Statutory Limits on Issuance of Green Cards

There are statutory limits to the number of immigrant visas available for foreign nationals under the employment-based and most family-based categories (except for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens). To be eligible to receive a green card, an immigrant visa number must be immediately available. Immigrant visa availability is determined by the priority dates listed on the U.S. Department of State (DOS) visa bulletin final action date chart. An individual’s priority date must be “current” for a particular month for the individual to be issued a green card or immigrant visa.

Erroneously Issued Green Cards Can Result in Long-Term Problems

On occasion, the USCIS mistakenly issues green cards before the individual’s priority date is current. A prematurely issued green card can pose potential problems down the road. The USCIS may issue a notice of intent to rescind (NOIR) the erroneously issued green card. After rescission, it is possible USCIS may choose to reopen the underlying I-485 adjustment application and return that application to pending status, until the individual’s priority date is current again. But, it is also possible that, after the rescission, the individual could be subject to deportation.

It is also possible that the USCIS may not discover the error until many years after the green card was issued.  Often, the error is only detected by the USCIS when an individual applies for naturalization. A discovery at that time may mean that the individual is ineligible for U.S. citizenship, or that the individual was never a lawful permanent resident.

Safer to be Proactive with Erroneous Green Cards

As a preliminary step, a green card recipient should check the visa bulletin to confirm that the individual’s priority date was current on the date the I-485 adjustment of status application was approved. If the individual discovers the error, the individual should consult with a qualified immigration attorney. The attorney will likely contact the USCIS to request that the person’s I-485 be put back into a pending status so that the green card can be lawfully approved once the priority date becomes current.


The journey to lawful permanent status in the United States can be a long process fraught with pitfalls. In most cases, the journey happily concludes with the receipt of a properly issued green card. However, in cases where the USCIS erroneously issues a green card, the individual should swiftly take appropriate action.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.