Green Card Questions & Answers

April 21, 1998

The New Green Card - INS’ Permanent Resident Card

1. Why is INS issuing a new Green Card?

  • The new card is a major milestone in combating document fraud. Produced by state-of-the-art technology, the card is more durable, more tamper-resistant, and more counterfeit-resistant. In addition, the new Green Card has several visible high-tech security features that will assist employers in identifying valid cards more easily, thereby helping them comply with workplace immigration laws.

2. How is the new Green Card being produced?

  • The new Permanent Resident Card is being produced by INS’ new Integrated Card Production System (ICPS) machines, which enable INS to continuously expand security features to stay ahead of counterfeiters. Made up of several different components, these one-of-a-kind machines perform a number of complex tasks in a single automated process. These tasks range from digital printing, laser etching and encoding the optical stripe, to applying other visible and invisible security features and generating the card’s mailing package. By automatically producing a complete package ready for mailing, the ICPS will reduce manufacturing time and greatly increase the accuracy of information in the new cards.

3. Why did the official name for the Green Card change?

  • The Green Card, previously named the Alien Registration Receipt Card, is now officially called the Permanent Resident Card. The card’s form number, Form I-551, remains the same. This new name more clearly identifies the immigration status of the cardholder. The new document can be used to establish both identity and work eligibility in the employment verification process.

4. What are the specific features of the new Green Card?

  • Unlike the previous laminated paper cards, the new Permanent Resident Card is a plastic document similar to a credit card. It has digital photograph and fingerprint images which are an integral part of the card and, therefore, more tamper-resistant. It features a hologram depicting the Statue of Liberty, the letters "USA" in large print, an outline of the United States and the INS seal.
  • On the reverse side of the card, there is an optical memory stripe - similar to CD-ROM disk technology - with an engraved version of the information contained on the front of the card, including the cardholder’s photograph, name, signature, date of birth and alien registration number. This laser-etched information cannot be erased or altered. In addition, this same information, along with the cardholder’s fingerprint, are digitally encoded in the stripe and can only be read by INS personnel using a specially designed reader.

5. What is the per-card production cost of the new card?

  • The new Green Card will cost approximately $10 per card to produce, which is comparable to the production cost of the older version.

6. Who will get the new card?

  • Beginning on April 21, 1998, INS will issue only the new version of the Green Card. Individuals with approved applications for permanent resident status as well as those applying to renew expired cards will receive the new Green Card.

7. Should current Green Card holders replace their cards?

  • No, holders of previous versions of the Green Card do not need to immediately replace their cards. Cards issued since 1989 are valid for 10 years and will remain valid until the expiration date indicated on the face of the card - allowing gradual card replacement for the approximately 10 million current cardholders. Form I-551 Green Cards that were issued from 1977 to 1989 and do not have an expiration date will remain valid until INS announces an official replacement program for these cards in the future.

8. How does an individual apply for a Green Card?

  • Initially, a Green Card is obtained when an individual becomes a lawful permanent resident. The Green Card has a 10-year validity period and cardholders must renew their cards when they expire. To renew expired "Green Cards," cardholders must submit to their local INS office a completed Form I-90, along with a filing fee, which is currently $75.

9. If production of the new card only costs approximately $10, why does it now cost $75 to renew an expired Green Card?

  • Application fees are based on the "full cost" to INS for processing each individual application. The "full cost" is the total direct and indirect expenses related to processing a particular application, including costs for personnel and management, materials and supplies and overhead (i.e., space, utilities, equipment).

10. Why has INS delayed issuance of the new Green Card?

  • Distribution of the first new cards had been delayed for three months due to unforeseen quality control problems associated with the start-up of this complex new technology. These manufacturing problems have been fixed and the cards are now being produced at two INS facilities. Distribution of the first 50,000 new Green Cards to permanent residents begins on April 21, 1998, as does a broad outreach effort to introduce the card and its features to employers and the general public.

11. What are the specific sites where the new Green Card will be produced?

  • Production of the new cards is underway at two ICPS locations, St. Albans, Vermont and Laguna Niguel, California. By the end of this calendar year, three more ICPS machines will be on-line, one in Lincoln, Nebraska and two more in Kentucky.

12. Which other cards will be produced by the new card production system?

  • Employment Authorization Document - This card authorizes a nonimmigrant to work in the United States and is generally valid for one-year periods. This new card has been issued as of January 1997.
  • Laser Visa (issued by the Department of State in lieu of the Border Crossing Card) - This card authorizes a Mexican national to cross the border into the United States for temporary visits, shopping, etc. An individual holding this card is not authorized to work or reside in the United States. This card is not valid for employment verification, Form I-9, purposes.
  • Foreign Student Card - This card is issued to certain nonimmigrant students or exchange students under a pilot program. Cardholders can only utilize this card for the purpose of attending American schools approved by INS. This card is not valid for employment verification, Form I-9, purposes.
  • American Indian Card (issued only to the Kickapoo Tribe) - This card identifies members of the Kickapoo Tribe as U.S. citizens and authorizes border crossing. This card is not valid for employment verification, Form I-9, purposes.
  • Northern Mariana Islands Card - During the two-year period that ended July 1, 1990, the Service issued Northern Mariana Identification Cards to aliens who acquired U.S. citizenship when the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States became effective on November 3, 1986. These cards remain valid as evidence of U.S. citizenship. Although INS no longer issues these cards, a U.S. citizen to whom a card was issued may file Form I-777, Application for Issuance or Replacement of Northern Mariana Card, to obtain replacement of a lost, stolen, or mutilated Northern Mariana Identification Card.
    This card is not valid for employment verification, Form I-9, purposes.

13. Approximately how many cards will the ICPS be issuing per year?

Permanent Resident Card Ð 			1.2 million
Employment Authorization Document Ð		875,000
Laser Visa (for the Department of State, 
     in lieu of the old Border Crossing Card) Ð		
 		FY 1998				430,000
 		FY 1999 through FY 2002		1.7 million (each year)
Foreign Student Card Ð 				400,000
American Indian Card Ð 			 	50
Northern Mariana Islands Card Ð	      50

14. What is the time schedule for issuing the other new versions of INS cards?

  • INS has been producing the new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) since January 1997. INS will begin issuing Permanent Resident Cards on April 21, 1998. The other cards will be cycled into production beginning with the Laser Visa in late spring 1998.

15. What is the legal responsibility of employers regarding the inspection of the new Green Cards?

  • The law requires an employee to present to an employer documentation that establishes his or her identity and eligibility to work in the United States. This is necessary for completion of the Employment Eligibility Verification Form, Form I-9. The employee has the choice of which document(s) to present.
  • After being hired, an employee who is a lawful permanent resident can present a Green Card to establish both identity and employment eligibility for the Form I-9.
  • If the employer examines the card and believes it does not appear genuine, the employer may ask the employee to provide alternative documentation. The employer should show the employee the complete list of documents and ask if they can present other acceptable documentation.
  • The new Green Card incorporates several visible security features which employers can see when examining the card for employment verification purposes. These include the holograms and the optical memory stripe with the laser-etched engraving of the cardholder’s information.
  • For more information on the use of the new Green Card for employment eligibility verification, employers can contact the INS Office of Business Liaison at 1-800-357-2099 or visit INS’ World Wide Web site at

- INS -

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 98042141.