How to Read Green Card

Green Card Information

Permanent Resident Cards are a primary form of identification for permanent residents. Also known as Green Cards, these official documents allow their holders to live and work in the U.S. as well as re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad for short periods of time. Green Cards may also be helpful in filing for a Social Security card, securing a lease on a home or apartment, gaining legal employment, and opening a bank account, for example.

Old Versus New Green Cards

Formats and security measures for Permanent Resident Cards have changed over the years. In 2017, under the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project, USCIS began issuing new cards that

  • display the individual’s photograph on both the front and back,
  • carry the image of the Statue of Liberty on a predominately green palette,
  • have embedded holographic images,
  • no longer display the individual’s signature and
  • no longer carry an optical stripe on the back.

Old cards will remain valid pending their established expiration dates.

How To Read the Front of a Green Card

The front of a Permanent Resident Card lists clearly labeled key personal identifiers:

  • Surname. At the top is the card holder’s last name or familial name.
  • Given Name. The individual name the cardholder was given at birth is displayed separately, below the person’s surname. This is often the first name and middle initial.
  • USCIS Number. Newer cards will list the USCIS# while older cards may list the A-Number or A#. The USCIS Number is the same as the individual’s A-Number, which is the unique number USCIS assigns to each person’s A-File when they apply to immigrate to the United States.
  • Category. Also known as Class of Admission, the Category Code is a three-digit set of letters and numbers. This code specifies the section of immigration law that USCIS applied to that individual’s situation to approve the Green Card. A listing of categories can be found in Appendix 23-7, “Class of Admission under the Immigrant Laws, Code,” of the Department of Homeland Security’s Adjudicator’s Field Manual.
  • Country of Birth. This should be the country where the individual was born.
  • Date of Birth. The card will list the day, abbreviated month and full year that the individual was born.
  • Sex. The card will list an F for female and an M for male.
  • Card Expiration Date. This date is usually 10 years after the issuance date, which usually is titled Resident Since. For conditional residents, the expiration date will be 2 years after the issuance date.
  • Resident Since. This is the issuance date, the date that the individual was granted the Green Card.

How To Read the Back of a Green Card

The back of the card contains much of the same information but in a coded form that allows it all to be displayed in three lines. Each piece of information is separated by a less than symbol that looks like a V turned on its side:

  • The first line displays codes indicating
    • Whether the individual is a resident. C1 indicates the individual resides within the U.S. while C2 indicates the individual commutes from a residence in Canada or Mexico.
    • The country issuing the card.
    • The individual’s nine-digit A-Number.
    • The immigrant case number that resulted in the Green Card’s approval.
  • The second line displays the individual’s birth date and gender as well as the card’s expiration date and the person’s country of birth. Birth dates and expiration dates are displayed in the format YY/MM/DD, using two-digit abbreviations for year, month and day.
  • The third line displays the individual’s name as well as the names of the individual’s parents, space permitting.