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Knowing what a green card is and what a green card looks like is part of becoming a permanent United States resident.
In addition, it is important to be familiar with US Immigration Law.
What is a Green Card?
Officially titled a Permanent Resident Card, a green card is issued to a non-US citizen as their recognized means of gaining permanent residence in the United States.
Those with a green card are granted a work permit and the ability to live in all US states and territories. Note that this is NOT the same as an EAD card which is an Employment Authorization Document and allows you to be employed in the United States.
You are advised to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) when you apply for your Green Card, as they can often take a long time to come through.
After three to five years, green card holders are eligible for complete United States citizenship. This includes Green Cards that are won in a Green Card lottery.
How Does A Green Card Look?
As with most government cards and documents, the green card has changed in appearance over the years.
First officially issued in 1949, the United States green card has undergone several changes in the overall design and documented information.
Today, the United States green card appears as an off-green colored permanent resident card with the resident’s photo on its left side and their identifying information along its center.
The card includes the resident’s:
- Given Name
- USCIS Number
- Category Designation
- Country of Birth
- Date of Birth
- Expiration Date
- Date of Issuance
Spotting a Fake Green Card or a Fake Resident Card
Whether a non-US citizen applying for a green card or an employer hiring an immigrant, it is important to know what an authentic green card looks like. You should also be on the lookout for fake copies.
Warning About Fake Green Cards: Never get a green card from anywhere apart from an official USCIS location.
Anyone that offers to sell you a green card is committing a CRIMINAL OFFENSE.
If you are found with a fake green card, you will face felony criminal charges and potential removal or deportation from the US.
What does a Green Card look like if it is fake?
Typos & Inconsistencies
This is the easiest way to tell if you are dealing with a fake. If any words are misspelled, out of order, or missing, the card is likely to be fake.
While some of the small mistakes may require a bit of attention to detail, a fake card usually has a larger mistake. This mistake could be spelling “Surname” as “Surmane”
This is guaranteed to be fraudulent and should be reported.
Similarly, if the USCIS number on the face of the card does not match the first line on the back, it is a fake green card. This is also true if the date of birth does not match the second line on the back of the card.
References the INS
The INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) became a part of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) in 2003.
All Permanent Resident green cards were revised by 2004 to present the DHS seal and will NOT make any references to the INS.
If the card references them in any way, it is fraudulent.
Resident Alien card without expiration date.
You may come across a Resident Alien card without an expiration date. While Resident Alien cards are still acceptable and used today, these cards do not have an expiration date on them.
The last Resident Alien card with an expiration date expired in 2008.
If you or someone you know has a green card with the term “Resident Alien” and the expiration date is for 2025, even if every other area seems legitimate, the card is fake and should be reported.
The Card Contains An Incorrect Form Number
As early as 1979, all Permanent Resident green cards have the I-551 number. Newer cards have the I-551 number printed on the back in the top left corner.
Fake cards are likely to either have the numbers displayed on the front of the card, have the numbers read “1-551,” have the Employment Authorization Document number listed (I-766), or have completely randomized numbers written after the “I.”
The card is a definite fake if any of these is spotted and should be reported immediately.
Being Aware So You Can Tell the Difference
Whether you are an employer or someone that has recently applied for a green card, you must be aware of what to expect when looking at an authentic green card compared to a fake one.
You can protect yourself and countless others by understanding the difference and reporting the seller to the local authorities.