United States Alien Registration Card Vs. Green Card

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An alien registration card is the same thing as a green card. The only difference between an alien registration card and a green card is the name. The alien registration card (ARC) is the official name given by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to signify legal permanent residency, while the name "green card" is a more colloquial and recognizable term used to describe the ARC around the world.

Application to Register Permanent Residence (Form I-485)

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for approving and issuing all green cards or alien registration cards. Those who qualify for green cards include anyone sponsored by an employer, spouses of U.S. citizens, immediate family members of U.S. citizens and immediate family members of legal permanent residents (in this last case, visas can take up to five years to obtain).

To file for a green card, the individual must complete Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence) and submit it to the USCIS along with the form fee, the biometric services fee and any documents required by his case, such as marriage or employment certificates. As of 2019, the filing fee for people ages 14 to 78 is $1,140 and the biometric services fee is $85, for a total of $1,225. Once the petition is approved, the applicant receives a registration/green card in the mail.

Renewing or Replacing the Green Card

Those granted a green card must renew it before its expiration date. Typically, a green card is valid for 10 years, with the exception of conditional permanent residents, whose green cards are valid for only two years. Permanent residents may also replace their green card if it has been lost, stolen or damaged or if their biographic information, such as their name, has been legally changed. As of 2019, the filing fee to replace or renew a green card, using the Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (I-90) form, is $455 and the biometric services fee is $85, or a total of $540.

Physical Appearance of the Alien Registration Card

Green cards are not actually green anymore. The name derived from their former green appearance after the Second World War. The modern card is mostly white with black lettering and contains the holder's photo, name, U.S. address and ID number. It is made out of plastic and is about the size of any other identification card such as a driver's license.

Other Names for the Alien Registration Card

Other names for the alien registration or green card include immigrant visa, permanent resident card and sometimes simply I-485. The name “green card” is used in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world to signify legal alien residency in the U.S.

Loss of Permanent Residency

A person who has acquired a green card, enjoys the same rights as citizens do, but he can lose an ARC/green card after acquiring it. Committing a felony, even a minor one, could subject him to deportation and the loss of his green card. He will also lose green card status if he is absent from the country for longer than a year at a time without filing for a reentry pass.

Failing to notify the USCIS about a change of address can also cost a person her green card, as will helping an illegal immigrant enter the country. A false marriage is also grounds for losing her green card. If she commits a crime while holding a green card, she should consult a criminal lawyer and immigration lawyer.

Applying for Citizenship

Possessing a green card for five years qualifies the holder to apply for U.S. citizenship. People whose green cards are based on marriage to a U.S. citizen can apply for citizenship after three years of residency. In both cases, he must prove quality of character during the period of residency and have no felonies on his record.

No law requires people to apply for citizenship after five years of residency. People can hold the green card for as long as they live in the country, regardless if it is for two years or a lifetime.

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