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US Visas and Immigration: What Is the I-551 Stamp?

Transcript of the video above:

In this video, we're going to be talking about the I-551 Stamp. What Is the I-551 Stamp? Well the culmination of the entire visa process, let’s take this from a family immigration, one has married to a Thai national, an American say is married to a Thai national, they've undertaken the process of obtaining let's say a CR-1 visa which is an immigrant visa to the United States which confers lawful permanent residence upon admission to the United States.

Upon being admitted by U.S. Customs of Border Protection in the United States, the foreign national spouse is going to be stamped into the country with what is called an I-551 stamp. Effectively, this is a temporary green card for the first year for that foreign spouse in the United States. Presumably, during that one year period, a green card will be mailed out to that foreign spouse, which that green card will then show the lawful permanent resident nature of that individual's status.

So the I-551 is in and of itself a temporary green card; that is literally what it is. It can even be used to travel in and out of the United States for the first year of presence of lawful permanent residence in the country. That being said, after the one year period of time has expired, if that individual is outside of the country that can become very problematic especially if they do not have actual possession of their green card card. This is problematic for the same reason that Trump's travel ban became problematic because many airlines will probably not let that individual onto a plane if their 551 has already expired and if they don’t have their new actual lawful permanent resident card, the actual card itself.

So the 551 is useful but bear in mind that the 551 is temporary; in and of itself, it is temporary. It is inherent to its nature. It's a temporary travel document and it's a notice of that individual's status. They are in fact a lawful permanent resident and it's one of those catch 22s that can oftentimes come up. If that individual is abroad and the 551 expires and a new green card isn't in their possession and they don't see any time in the foreseeable future when it's going to be in their possession, that leads to a catch 22 where only an immigration judge can revoke one's lawful permanent residence status but if one can’t get back to the United States and an airline won't allow that individual to board to get into the United States, then effectively that protection is in a sense, in certain cases can be counter-productive especially if one were to turn around and just re-file for a new immigrant visa or something like this, then it would be fairly rare when that happen but it could it. The thing to keep in mind is the 551 is temporary and again, you could lead to a catch 22 situation when one's abroad doesn't have the 551 expires, you don't have your green card, you are not getting on a plane to go back; if in the United States, no problem. The 551 is simply a temporary green card. One needs to go ahead and get their lawful permanent residence card as quickly as possible after they arrive in the U.S.

But keep in mind that traveling on it can be done but it should be done with some degree of caution because if one is abroad when that 551 expires it can be a serious issue.