Department Of Immigration And Naturalization

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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A department of immigration and naturalization looks not only at its temporary visitors, but at the individuals who apply for permanent residency as a step toward citizenship. The Green Card has for decades been one of the most desirable documents among aliens because it bestows the right on the Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) to live and work in the United States indefinitely. No longer green, the card has a colorful history--literally.

The official name of the Green Card given by the department of immigration and naturalization is Alien Registration Receipt Card, Form I-151 or I-551. The first cards were printed on white paper, and resulted from the Alien Registration Act of 1940 and the security precautions preceding World War II. This Act required all aliens in the United States to register with the government; upon registration at United States Post Offices, these non-citizens were mailed their Form AR-3, a white card.

Green Card History in the Department of Immigration and Naturalization

When World War II was over, immigration to this country resumed in large numbers. At this point, registration at post offices was replaced by registration during immigration procedures. Distinctions were made for the first time based on the status of the alien; permanent residents received the Form I-151, which was a green card.

This card and the status it conveyed was so valuable that counterfeiting became a serious problem. Without the technology of modern biometric cards, for instance, the department of immigration and naturalization resorted to issuing cards of various colors: pale blue, dark blue, pink, pink-and-blue. Between the 1940s and 1977--when the final version was printed--the department came up with 19 versions of the cards, but they have always been known as "Green Cards."


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