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I am a US permanent resident but I have lost my physical green card.

I am currently abroad and due to return (permanently) to the US, but won't be able to get a replacement card or boarding foil in time.

I do have my passport and am from a visa waiver country. I have a copy of the green card and other documents proving ties to the US. While I won't be working immediately after getting to the US it's clear I'm not a tourist: I am bringing lots of luggage and travelling with my US partner.

So there are (at least) two issues: being allowed on the plane by the airline, and being let into the US by immigration.

Is there any way for me to get into the US on my already-booked flight? Could I use the ESTA to be allowed on the plane, then have US immigration look up my green card digitally at the US border? Could I enter the US on the travel visa, then re-enter within 90 days on a replacement green card?

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  • I don't think the immigration officer can admit you as a visitor unless you first relinquish your permanent resident status. I suppose you're more likely to get some sort of waiver of the requirement to have your green card, in which case you won't have to re-enter. But I'm speculating; I don't have time to look at the regulations just now. Furthermore, your documentary requirements and your status at the border depend on how long you've been absent from the US. Have you been away for less than 6 months, 6 to 12 months, or more than 12 months?
    – phoog
    Jul 29 at 2:04
  • Where are you currently? If you are in a country affected by the current travel bans (most of Europe or India for instance) even an ESTA wouldn't be enough (ditto is you transit by such a country). When is your flight?
    – jcaron
    Jul 29 at 13:15
  • When is your scheduled return to the US? Jul 29 at 18:42
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    If you can make it to US immigration and have been away less than 6 months it is near certain they'll let you back in as a LPR, though they'll do this in secondary and it might take a long time. If you lost the card while abroad a police report documenting that might turn out to be useful. I think your biggest issue may be getting on the flight to the US to get to immigration.
    – Dennis
    Jul 29 at 20:35
  • On COVID-related travel restrictions, if you are married to your partner (and can prove it) then you don't need to worry about them, but otherwise you will have to be able to prove to the airline that you are an LPR in order to show that you are exempt from the travel restrictions.
    – phoog
    Jul 29 at 23:33
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Update (as an answer because I don't have enough reputation for comments)

I ended up locating my green card a few hours before boarding so can't give a definitive answer to this question!

The airline was extremely helpful. I spoke to a customer service rep from the airline who felt that with a police report and copy of the card I might be allowed to board, but they were in the process of calling superiors when I got the card back so wasn't able to put that to the test. An exception would definitely be against official airline policy.

The US consulate was extremely unhelpful. They repeatedly refused over the phone and email to give me any information about boarding foil turnaround time, expedited processing or other immigration options without first paying the US$300 boarding foil fee, being contacted a few days later with an appointment slot some time in the future, and flying to the consulate in person.

I highly recommend not losing your green card while overseas in the month before returning to the US.

Thanks for the comments everyone. Sounds like entering as a visitor is bad idea, but you might be admitted as a LPR if you can get to the border.

(My country isn't on the travel ban list, I was away for < 6 months, my flight was ~12 hours after realising the card was missing.)

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  • You can always comment on your own posts, but you've created a second account. You can merge your accounts.
    – phoog
    Aug 7 at 2:19

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