I left the US on an expired green card (I foolishly read the date in the English format dd/mm/yy) and visited my family in England. The green card expired while I was in the UK, and now I have filled the I-751 and I am awaiting a receipt number so I can obtain a transportation letter and fly home to California.

I am very anxious to get home as soon as possible as I am 7 months pregnant and missing important doctor appointments. I really do not want to have my baby here in England without my husband.

Is it possible to fly back in on an ESTA while awaiting for my green card to be renewed?

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  • Do you hold a 10-year green card? – Crazydre Jun 4 '18 at 13:05
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    @PeterM Not a dupe; OP asks about the card being expired, not the status. Your perm. resident status doesn't expire because the green card does. – Crazydre Jun 4 '18 at 13:06
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    Did it expire before you left, or while you were away? Your question is unclear. You say you "left the US on an expired green card", which means that it had already expired, but then you say it "expired while I was in the UK", as if it was still valid when you left. – user2357112 supports Monica Jun 4 '18 at 20:15
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    @Coke: I-751 is the form to apply for Removal of Conditions. An I-751 receipt is an I-797, the "form number" the USCIS uses to send out many types of Notice of Action, including approval notices for various applications but also the I-751 receipt. – user102008 Jun 4 '18 at 21:24

If you have a 10-year Green Card, you can fly to and enter the US on it alone even if it's expired.

If it's not a 10-year card, you need either a Transportation letter or (for conditional Green cards) a I-797 Notice of Action.

Source: TIMATIC, the database used by Airlines:

An expired Permanent Resident/Resident Alien Card (Form I-551) is accepted with:

  • a 10-years validity at time of issuance; or
  • a Transportation Letter issued by the USA; or
  • a civilian or military travel order issued by the USA or
  • if the passenger is included as dependent spouse or child of the civilian or military travel order.


An expired Conditional Resident/Resident Alien Card (Form I-551) with CR shown under category is accepted with an I-797 Notice of Action .

An ESTA will most likely not be granted, as it's not for residents. Moreover, applying for one could easily be seen as evidence of having abandonded permanent residency, in which case you're in trouble.

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    If she has filed an I-751 then it's probably the last case (CR category), in which case she'd need to wait for the I-797. – phoog Jun 4 '18 at 14:29
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    @phoog Or get a Transportation letter. It says it's valid with expired Green Cards in General, and conditional ones don't seem to be an exception as such – Crazydre Jun 4 '18 at 15:32
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    @Coke, Except the OP indicates that she needs a "receipt number" to get the transportation letter and I'm pretty sure the receipt number she needs is the one on the I-797. She may need to wait for the I-797 regardless. – Dennis Jun 4 '18 at 20:58
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    Rereading this answer, I think it might be worthwhile to expand the last paragraph. I don't know whether an ESTA application is commonly taken as an indication that a permanent resident has abandoned permanent resident status, but it's certainly possible that it would be. This would of course be far more serious than simple ESTA denial. And since ESTA is even granted to US (dual) citizens despite the fact that it's "not for them," it's conceivable that an LPR could get themselves into a sticky situation by actually using one and entering under the VWP. – phoog Jul 24 '19 at 12:17
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    I would advise against that course if action unless it is advised by a very good US immigration lawyer. If someone did pursue it, however, it would probably be a good idea to present oneself to the immigration officer as an LPR and explain that the ESTA was used as an emergency measure to get on the plane. But in saying that I haven't reviewed the statutes or regulations, and I do not know the case law well at all, so again it would be a bad idea to try that without first talking to a good immigration lawyer. – phoog Jul 24 '19 at 12:21

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