A United States Permanent Resident Card, also Green Card, is an identification card
for a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States of America. Green Card also
refers to a process of becoming a LPR. Green Card serves as a proof that its holder has
permission to conditionally reside and take employment in the U.S. The holder must
maintain resident status by residing in the United States and can be removed (if certain
crimes are committed, for example).
Official name of the card is Permanent Resident Card (form I-551). The name "green
card" comes from the fact that the predecessor, form I-151 Alien Registration Receipt
Card, introduced at the end of World War II, was printed on green paper. Form I-551 was
adopted in 1977 and has been printed on paper of various colors, none of which were
green, but the term "green card" has nonetheless remained in use. As of 2006, the card is
mostly yellowish-white and the only prominent green feature is the background of the
lettering on the back. A card includes the holder's name and photograph, and other
information, and has been updated over the years with numerous anti-counterfeiting
Green cards were formerly issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
That agency has been absorbed into and replaced by the Bureau of Citizenship and
Immigration Services (BCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DOS).
Shortly after re-organization BCIS was re-named to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
If an immigrant wants to work while his application for a green card is pending, an
temporary work permit, Employment Authorization Document (EAD), is needed. If an
immigrant wants to travel abroad while his application for a green card is
Path to US citizenship
LPR can apply for United States citizenship 5 years (3 years if marrying a U.S. Citizen)
after becoming a permanent resident through naturalization process. Citizens are entitled
to more constitutional rights than permanent residents, who are still classified as aliens in
 Types of immigration
U.S. immigration legislation through Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) stipulates
that an alien may become a LPR only in the course of the following proceedings:
immigration through a family member
immigration through employment
immigration through investment
immigration through the Diversity Lottery
immigration through "The Registry" provisions of the Immigration and
 Immigration eligibility and quotas
Quota Visa Backlog
Immediate relative (spouses, minor children &
parents) of US citizens
(A US citizen must be at least 21 years of age in
order to sponsor his or her parents.)
Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or
F1 23,400 6-7 yearsb
older) of US citizens
Spouses and minor children (under 21 year old) of
F2A 87,934 5-6 yearsb
lawful permanent residents
Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or
F2B 26,266 9-10 yearsb
older) of lawful permanent residents
F3 Married sons and daughters of US citizens 23,400 8-9 yearsb
F4 Brothers and sisters of adult US citizens 65,000 10-11 yearsb
Priority workers -- persons with extraordinary
ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or
EB1 40,000 8 months
athletics, or outstanding professors and
EB2 Professionals holding advanced degrees (Ph.D., 40,000 8 monthsb
master's degree, or at least 5 years of progressive
post-baccalaureate experience) or persons of
exceptional ability in sciences, arts, or business
EB3 Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers 40,000 5 yearsb
Certain special immigrants -- ministers, religious
EB4 workers, current or former US government 10,000 8 months
EB5 Investors 10,000 8 months
Diversity Immigrant (DV) 55,000
Political Asylum numerical
300,000-500,000 immediate relatives admitted annually.
Individuals from China (mainland), India, Mexico and Philippines are subject to per-
country quotas. See the US State Department's Visa Bulletins.
 Application process
An immigrant usually has to go through a three-step process to get the green card, which
entitles him/her to live and work permanently in the United States (subject to certain rules
and conditions). The whole process may take several years depending on the type of
immigrant category and the country of birth.
1. Immigrant Petition — in the first step, USCIS approves the immigrant petition
by a qualifying relative, an employer, or in rare cases, such as with an investor
visa, the applicant himself. If a sibling is applying, she or he must have the same
parents as the applicant.
2. Immigrant Visa Availability — in the second step, unless the applicant is an
"immediate relative", an immigrant visa number through the National Visa Center
(NVC)  of the United States Department of State (DOS) must be available.
Visa number might not be immediately available even if the USCIS approves the
petition because the amount of immigrant visa numbers is limited every year by
quotas set in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). There are also certain
additional limitations by country of birth. Thus, most immigrants will be placed
on lengthy waiting lists. Those immigrants who are immediate relatives of a U.S.
citizen (spouses and children under 21 years of age, and parents of a U.S. citizen
who is 21 years of age or older) are not subject to these quotas and may proceed
to the next step immediately (IR immigrant category).
3. Immigrant Visa Adjudication — in the third step, if an immigrant visa number
becomes available the applicant must either apply with USCIS to adjust their
current status to permanent resident status or apply with DOS for immigrant visa
at the nearest U.S. consulate before being allowed to come to the U.S.