For immigrants who are granted permanent resident status and who are issued a Permanent Resident Card-- commonly called a green card that’s issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)-- the document is arguably the most important form of legal identification they carry. Understanding the general layout and the various features of the card gives Permanent Card holders insights into quickly locating and providing essential information quickly and easily as the overarching purpose of the card is as an indicator of an immigrant's legal right to live and work in the United States.
One of the most important features of the Permanent Resident Card is the card number, sometimes also referred to as the document number. The permanent resident card number, found printed on the back of the current version of the card, are distinct 13-digit numbers given on each Permanent Resident Card issued to permanent residents by USCIS.
The expiration date of the card-- the date by which an immigrant must reapply for a green card or apply for citizenship-- is located on the bottom front of the card. On previous versions of the card, the 13-digit number and the expiration were both printed on the front of the card.
USCIS issues Permanent Resident Cards-- Form I-551-- to individuals to whom the agency grants authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. The Permanent Resident Card-- green card-- is also known as Form I-551. The Permanent Resident Card is also sometimes referred to as an Alien Registration Card.
The card number is comprised of 13 characters that are a combination of letters and numbers. The alphanumeric document number begins with three letters followed by 10 characters in numeral form. The document number doesn’t use anything categorized as a special character-- any character that isn’t a letter or a number.
Unsurprisingly, the color of the Permanent Resident Card itself is green. Besides the Permanent Resident Card number, the green card also contains the recipient’s name, photo, fingerprint, card number, alien/USCIS number, birth date and also the card expiration date as well as a number of security features.
The current version of the Permanent Resident that’s issued today by USCIS was originally introduced approximately six years ago. Security technology included in the modern cards include holographic images, laser engraved fingerprints as well as high-resolution microimages. Permanent Resident Cards were originally introduced to immigrants in late 1997. The first revision of the cards came in 2004 when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added its seal and a detail hologram. All versions of the Permanent Resident Cards are still valid.
Prior to 1997, the Immigration and Naturalization Service Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued Resident Alien Cards. Unlike the green Permanent Resident Cards, Resident Alien Cards are peach in color and do not contain document numbers. While these Resident Alien Cards issued between August 1989 and December 1997 don’t contain document numbers, they do include expiration dates, all of which have since lapsed.