A Green card is a card which is allotted as an identification card to those aliens, having a permanent resident status in United States
The official name of Green card is 'Alien Registration Receipt Card'. Other names of Green Card include Permanent Resident card (PR), Permanent visa, Immigrant visa and Form I-551.
When the Alien Registration Act, 1940 was passed, all aliens were directed to register themselves with the US government. This could be done at the post offices and then their registration forms would be forwarded to the Immigration and Naturalisation Services (INS). At that point of time, all those who were registered, were legal immigrants and there was no discrimination between the legal and the illegal immigrants. When the aliens registered themselves, the INS, after processing their forms, would send receipt forms which were the first green cards issued. They were white in colour.
After the World War II, each type of immigration was classified by different permits to help the INS to deal the immigrants with better efficiency. There were several different types of immigrants; workers, students and teachers, and each had a registration permit that showed their status. Those immigrants, who were lucky enough to obtain a permit for permanent residence in the United States, got a green receipt, or, in other words, a green card. vGreen cards were formerly issued by the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS).
During a re-organisation process, INS was absorbed into, and was replaced by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), part of the department of homeland security (DHS). Shortly after that re-organisation, BCIS was renamed to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which still retains the responsibility for issuing green cards.
A person, who is granted authorisation to live and work in United States for perpetual term is called as a permanent resident. As a proof of the permanent status, the person is granted a Permanent Resident Card, commonly called as 'Green Card'.
A Green card allows the holder to freely live, work and move in any of the 50 states of America. It also entitles the holder to all social benefits of being an American citizen, such as state sponsorship in education, research, taxation, social security and insurance, retirement and health benefits. A permanent resident can own property, cars, arms, etc. A Green card holder is able to travel abroad as a US permanent resident. Modern Green cards are valid for life time, whether or not the holder chooses to apply for US citizenship or not.
Sudhir Shah is a Mumbai-based lawyer and an expert on
immigration related issues