GREEN CARD. Alien registration receipt cards, colloquially called "green cards," are issued to aliens who qualify as lawful permanent residents as proof of their status. The 2002 version of the card was actually light pink in color. Cards issued before 1976, however, were green. All older versions of the green card expired in 1996. The I-551 cards expire after ten years and need to be renewed before expiration. Permanent resident children must apply for a new card when they reach their fourteenth birthday. Expiration of the card does not affect an individual's status as a lawful permanent resident, but an expired card cannot be used to establish employment eligibility or as a visa for travel.
The current card is machine readable and contains the alien's photograph, fingerprints, and signature as well as optical patterns to frustrate counterfeiting. If a resident's card is lost, mutilated, or destroyed, a replacement card may be issued. If the permanent resident is naturalized, permanently leaves the country, is deported, or dies, the card must be surrendered.
To qualify for permanent resident status and receive a card, an alien must fit into one of several categories. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended, established a set of preferred immigrant categories, each limited by a numerical quota. An alien may be sponsored by certain family members in the United States. An employment-based status is granted to workers with extraordinary ability, people with advanced degrees, people whose labor is needed in the United States, religious workers, foreign employees of the government, and entrepreneurs who create employment opportunities for Americans. The so-called diversity category includes immigrants from underrepresented countries. Refugees and people granted asylum may also apply for permanent residence after one year.
The card serves as a permit for employment in the United States and a visa. Permanent residents may use the card to return to the United States after a temporary absence not exceeding one year. If more than a year passes before the resident returns to the United States, the card is no longer valid as a reentry permit. If the permanent resident has been abroad for more than one year but less than two, he or she must obtain a reentry permit from the INS. If the resident is absent from the United States for longer than two years, he or she must obtain a special immigrant visa from a U.S. consulate, usually after establishing that he or she has not abandoned his or her permanent resident status.
The potential use of the card to reenter the United States should not be confused with the maintenance of lawful permanent residence status. To maintain lawful permanent resident status while abroad, an alien must demonstrate the intent to remain in the United States as a permanent resident. The INS generally examines the length of and purpose for the resident's absence; whether or not the resident continues to file U.S. tax returns, maintains a U.S. address, bank account, and driver's license; the location of the resident's close family members; and the location and nature of the resident's employment.
For the holder of a green card to be eligible for naturalization, he or she generally must reside in the United States continuously for five years following establishment of permanent residence. The required period is reduced to three years if the resident is the spouse of a U.S. citizen. If the resident is absent from the country for more than six months but for less than a year, the continuity of residence is broken unless the resident can supply a reasonable explanation for the absence. An absence of one year or more destroys the continuity of residence unless the resident takes appropriate steps prior to the expiration of a year.
Aleinikoff, Thomas Alexander, David A. Martin, and Hiroshi Motomura. Immigration: Process and Policy. 4th ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West Group, 1998.
Gordon, Charles, Stanley Mailman, and Stephen Yale-Loehr. Immigration Law and Procedure. New York: Matthew Bender, 1988; supplemented through 2002.
Legomsky, Stephen H. Immigration and Refugee Law and Policy. Westbury, N.Y.: Foundation Press, 1997.
See alsoImmigration .
Green Card ★★½ 1990 (PG-13)
Some marry for love, some for money, others for an apartment in the Big Apple. Refined, single MacDowell covets a rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan, but the lease stipulates that the apartment be let to a married couple. Enter brusque and burly Depardieu, who covets the elusive green card. The counterpoint between MacDowell, as a stuffy horticulturist, and Depardieu, as a French composer works well, and the two adroitly play a couple whose relationship covers the romantic continuum. Director Weir wrote the screenplay with Depardieu in mind. Depardieu's English-language debut. 108m/C VHS, DVD . Gerard Depardieu, Andie MacDowell, Bebe Neuwirth, Gregg Edelman, Robert Prosky, Jessie Keosian, Ann Wedgeworth, Ethan Phillips, Mary Louise Wilson, Lois Smith, Simon Jones; D: Peter Weir; W: Peter Weir; M: Hans Zimmer. Golden Globes ‘91: Actor—Mus./Comedy (Depardieu), Film—Mus./Comedy.
green card • n. 1. (in the U.S.) a permit allowing a foreign national to live and work permanently in the U.S. 2. (in the UK) an international insurance document for motorists.
The popular name for the Alien Registration Receipt Card issued to all immigrants entering the United States on a non-temporary visa who have registered with and been fingerprinted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The name green card comes from the distinctive coloration of the card.