Resident Alien Card

U.S. resident aliens are permanent resident green card holders. This a blanket term used to describe permanent residents, conditional residents and returning residents. In this article we’ll discuss what it means to be a resident alien, we’ll provide an overview of the green card renewal process and the process of removing conditions from your residence.

What Is a Resident Alien Card?

A resident alien card is another term for a U.S. green card. Green cards issued before 1997 were sometimes referred to as “Alien Registration Receipt Cards” and they had the title “Resident Alien” across the top of the card.

Who Is a Resident Alien?

A resident alien is a U.S. permanent resident (green card holder). Permanent residents can live and work in the U.S. permanently. They also can sponsor certain relatives for immigration to the United States.

What’s the Difference? Resident Alien Card vs. Green Card

There is no difference between a resident alien card and a green card. They are different names for the same thing–a USCIS identification document for U.S. permanent residents. These cards (also known as Form I-551) have changed over time. Versions of the card issued before 1997 had the heading “Resident Alien” while cards issued after 1997 have the heading “Permanent Resident Card.” The term alien is used to describe a person who has immigrated to the United States and is not a citizen.

What’s the Difference? Permanent Residents (Green Card Holders) vs. Conditional Residents

Conditional residents are a type of permanent resident; however, their status is conditional and may be taken away if they do not meet the requirements to maintain it. There are two types of conditional permanent residence: marriage-based conditional residence and entrepreneur-based conditional residence.

Marriage-Based Conditional Residents

Marriage-based permanent residents receive a conditional status if the marriage was less than 2 years old on the day they received permanent residence. The status is conditional because they must prove that the marriage is legitimate (that they did not get married simply to receive a green card).

Within 90 days of the card’s expiration, conditional residents should apply to have the conditions removed from their residence to receive a 10-year, non-conditional green card. The application for this process is USCIS Form I-751. In general, you can apply to remove the conditions on your green card if you meet one of the following:

  • You are still married to the same U.S. citizen or permanent resident after 2 years. You may include your children in your application if they received their conditional-resident status either at the same time or within 90 days as you did.
  • You are a child and, for a valid reason, cannot be included in your parents’ application.
  • You are a widow or widower who entered into your marriage in good faith.
  • You entered into a marriage in good faith, but the marriage ended through divorce or annulment.
  • You entered into a marriage in good faith, but either you or your child were battered or subjected to extreme hardship by your U.S.-citizen or permanent-resident spouse.

Entrepreneur-Based Conditional Residents

Entrepreneur-based conditional residents receive conditional status if the permanent residence is based on investment. Within 90 days of the card’s expiration, conditional residents should apply to have the conditions removed from their residence to receive a 10-year, non-conditional green card. The application for this process is USCIS Form I-829.

When Do You Need to Renew Your Green Card?

If you have a non-conditional, 10-year green card, the USCIS recommends you renew your green card within 6 months of its expiration date. If you have a conditional, 2-year green card, the USCIS requires that you apply to remove conditions on your status within 90 days of its expiration.