Important to be a green card holder to apply for US citizenship!

Immigration status referred to as lawful permanent residency authorizes a person on a permanent basis to live and work in the US. The INS forms I-151 formerly Alien Registration Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card, now referred to as United States Permanent Resident Card (USCIS Form I-551) is an identification card attesting to the permanent resident status of an alien in the United States.

Green card overview

The card has been green in color from 1946 till 1964 and hence called a green card and it has reverted to that color since May 2010.Immigration process of becoming a permanent resident is also referred as green card. Serving the purpose as proof that its holder, a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), has been officially granted immigration benefits, the green card also include permission to reside and take employment in the USA.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) formerly issued the green card. That agency was absorbed into and replaced by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) during a re-organization process. Now the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), formerly known as BCIS, have the responsibility for issuing green cards.

All eighteen years of age or older permanent residents of the United States must carry their valid physical green card itself at all times. According to Immigration and Nationality Actsection 264(e) failing to do so would result in penalty of a fine not exceeding 100 dollars and/or imprisoned not more than 30 days for each offense. The federal government can only impose these penalties.

Reading a Permanent Resident Card

The information on the card is mostly self-evident except for the computer and human readable signature at the bottom which is not evident.

  • On first line:

1–2: C1 or C2. Resident within the United States means C1 Permanent Resident commuter (who is living in Canada or Mexico) means C2

3–5: USA refers to issuing country, United States of America

6–14: 9-digit number refers to A#, alien number

15: refers to receipt number of the application

16–30: refers to immigrant case number that resulted in the approved green card. The “<” symbol represents a blank space

  • On second line:

1-6: refers to birth date (in YY/MM/DD format)

7: is assumed to be a check digit, not documented

8: refers to gender

9-14: refers to expiration date (in YY/MM/DD format)

15: is assumed to be a check digit, not documented

16-29: refers to country of birth

30: is assumed to be a check digit, not documented

  • On third line:

Last name, first name, (this line is spaced with “<<” which means two spaces between the last name and first name) middle name, first initial of father, first initial of mother. The father’s and mother’s initials may be omitted if the length of the name is too long.

In the Federal Register a full list of category codes (i.e. IR1, F1, E21, etc.) can be found. The IR, F1, F2A, F2B, F3 and F4 are categories belonging to family sponsored type where EB1, EB2, EB3, EB4 and EB5 belong to employment based type.

Applying for US citizenship

A lawful permanent resident can Apply for US citizenship after five years of residency, or naturalization, after five years of residency. If married to a U.S. citizen this period is shortened to three years or if permanent residency was received through asylum its four years period and the lawful permanent residents may submit their applications for naturalization as early as 90 days before meeting the residency requirement. As US citizens you are entitled to more rights and duties than permanent residents since that are still classified as aliens with respect to US citizens.

As US citizens you do generally have the right to vote, the right to be elected in federal and state elections and also the ability to bring family members to the United States. Certain family members can be sponsored by permanent residents but this is often not practical due to long period of time for approval or eligibility for federal government jobs. Tax must be paid by permanent residents who reside in the US on their worldwide income, like U.S. citizens. Deportation proceeding is possible in certain conditions that a permanent resident may put themselves in but they do not apply to U.S. citizens while outside U.S. after Applying for US citizenship!


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