The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officially refers the green card as the Permanent Resident Card, however, it is also known as a Resident Alien Card or  Alien Registration Receipt Card over time. The green card, which recently became green again, has a history of various names and color, in fact, the green card is very colorful.


The Alien Registration Act of 1940 required the non-U.S. citizen within the U.S. must register with the federal government at post offices. The registration forms were then forwarded to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for processing, and a receipt card (Form AR-3) was mailed to each registrant as proof of consent with the law. The law does not discriminate the legal and illegal alien(non-U.S. citizen) residents. All aliens had to register and all should receive an AR-3 forms.


The First Green Card

It was after World War II when the first green card emerged. The Alien Registration Act of 1940, where the Congress enacted, requires foreign-born of 14 years of age and older to report to a U.S. post office and have it fingerprinted and register their presence in the United States. Alien registration ceased to take place, as immigrants began streaming through U.S. borders,  and later on, became part of regular immigration procedures at ports of entry and immigration offices. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) began to issue different documents based on the status of the alien’s admission and its’ receipt cards having been replaced and to those who have valid claim for permanent residency must receive a proof of documentation in their status, if the immigrants with no legal basis to remain in the United States are subjected to leave or will be removed from the country. For a clear understanding, here is an example, the visitors received an I-94c, the temporary foreign laborers received an I-100a, and the lawful permanent residents received an I-151. While the pale green colored Form I-151 is when the holder is entitled to live and work indefinitely in the United States.

Starting April 17, 1950, the effectivity date of The Internal Security Act of 1950, aliens with legal status could replace their AR-3 with the new Form I-151, if they could not prove their legal admission in the United States, they are prosecuted for violating the U.S. immigration laws. The act of the Internal Security 1950 has increased the value of Form I-151.


With the Form I-151 card indicates the cardholder the right to live and work in the U.S. permanently and with a direct communication to law enforcement officials, the Form I-151 card represents its security to the cardholder and due to its inconvenient official name of the card, Alien Registration Receipt Card, the immigrants, attorney, and the INS workers came in to conclusion by calling the card “green card” because of its color.


In 1950, the INS was having a problem with counterfeit green cards, as immigrants began to grow in the U.S. and the green card as well, they have to take in action on document fraud by issuing 17 different re-designs of the card between 1952-1977.


Resident Alien Card, Form I-151 (1977-1989)

In 1977, the counterfeit-resistant version of the green card was developed. It was produced in a Texas facility in a newer, machine-verifiable to improve the uniformity and quality of the green card. The formerly paper cards are now made durable with fingerprints, signature, and A-number for identification measures.

The INS renamed its current form, Form I-151, and adopted a new name, “Resident Alien Card”. The cards that have issued between 1977 and August 1989 are not valid indefinitely because they do not have document numbers or expiration dates.


Business Friendly Green Card (1989-1997)

The INS issued a new card version again in August 1989, because the peach-colored card contains expiration date and no document numbers and have since expired, and because of numerous issues of complaints from the employers having difficulty in verifying the identity of various versions of the green card.

On March 20, 1966, the old Form I-151 green card issues prior to 1979, has taken an effect and became obsolete in order to combat fraud documentation. The only valid green card is the Form I-1551 Alien Registration Receipt Card.


Permanent Resident Card (1997-2010)

In December 1997, the card is now more secure and was developed and issued, the INS has worked on clearing the counter frauds.  The card has been revised and bared a new name “Permanent Resident Card” but the Form I-1551 has retained and a unique document number was also added to the card.

In May 2004, the permanent residents continue to carry this version of the card with its design that is slightly modified with the Department of Homeland Security seal and a detailed hologram on the front of the card. The last cards will expire in 2020.


The Modern Green Card (2010-present)

In May 2010, the current version and its features of security technologies such as holographic images, laser engraved fingerprints, high-resolution micro-images, and radio frequency identification of the green card were introduced.

According to the USCIS, in order to prevent counterfeiting, obstructs tampering, and facilitates quick and accurate authentication, the state-of-the-art technology is incorporated into the new card.