What are Green Cards: US Lawful Permanent Residency Explained

by PaulGoodman67

A general explanation of what Green Cards are, why they got their name, and a brief history. Lawful permanent residency (LPR) is also covered.

People often talk about Green Cards, when they are discussing US Immigration and US citizenship, but not everybody is sure what they are and what the term really means.

In this article I hope to respond in language that is easy to understand to questions such as:

What are Green Cards?

Why they are called Green Cards?

What the term US Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR) means?

How people become Green Card holders?

Which agencies issued Green Cards before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) came into existence?

Whether it is possible for a Green Card holder to lose their US Lawful Permanent Residency status?

What are the rules regarding Green Card holders carrying them on their person?

What are Green Cards?

Green cards are I.D. cards issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to people who are authorized to live and work in the US on a permanent basis.  Being able to live and work in the US is an immigration status formally known as US lawful permanent residency (LPR).

Why are they called Green Cards?

Green cards used to be known as Alien Registration Receipt Cards or Alien Registration Cards.  They are often called green cards because they used to be green between 1946 and 1964 and currently, since mid-2010, are green again.

So Green Cards are just I.D. Cards?

Yes and no, as well as the actual card, the term is also used to refer to the immigration process for permanent residency too, with the Green Cards showing that the holder has achieved Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR) meaning that the holders have been granted the official right to live and work in the USA.

How do people get Green Cards?

Some methods are more common than others, but basically there are 11 ways to get a green card. Examples being: through marriage to a US citizen, through being a relative of a green card holder, or through being a refugee from a country outside the USA. Even if someone is eligible, it can still take many months for their green card application to be processed and the card to be issues.

History of Issuing Agencies

Green cards used to be issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).  The INS was replaced by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service in a reorganization, however.  Then the BCIS was renamed and the issuing organization for Green Cards became the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Can you lose Lawful Permanent Residency Status?

Yes, you can be removed from the USA if you fail to fulfil your conditions of immigration.

Lawful Permanent Residents who are aged eighteen or older are expected to have their green cards with them at all times.  If they don’t, they can be fined or imprisoned.

Updated: 02/20/2013, PaulGoodman67
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