A United States Permanent Resident Card (USCIS Form I-551), formerly Alien Registration Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (INS Form I-151), is known informally as a green card because it had and has been green in color from 1946 till 1964 and since May 2010. The green card serves as proof that its holder, a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), has been officially granted immigration benefits, which include permission to reside and take employment in the USA. The holder must maintain permanent resident status, and can be removed from the United States if certain conditions of this status are not met.

What does a green card look like?

New version (2011):

Old version (2008):

Immigration eligibility and quotas

Category Eligibility Annual Quota Immigrant Visa Backlog
IR Immediate relative of U.S. citizens:
IR1: spouses of a U.S. citizen;
IR2: minor children of a U.S. citizen;
IR0: parents of a U.S. citizen.
No numerical limita  
F1 Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or older) of U.S. citizens 23,400 8–9 yearsb
F2A Spouses and minor children (under 21 year old) of lawful permanent residents 87,934 2–3 yearsb
F2B Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or older) of lawful permanent residents 26,266 8–9 yearsb
F3 Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens 23,400 10 yearsb
F4 Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens 65,000 14 yearsb
EB1 Priority workers. There are three sub-groups:
E11 and E16: Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics
E12 and E17: Foreign nationals that are outstanding professors or researchers with at least three years' experience in teaching or research and who are recognized internationally.
E13 and E18: Foreign nationals that are managers and executives subject to international transfer to the United States.
40,000 currently available
EB2 E21 and E26: Professionals holding advanced degrees (Ph.D., master's degree, or at least 5 years of progressive post-baccalaureate experience) or persons of exceptional ability in sciences, arts, or business
40,000 currently available except for individuals from China and India (5 years)b
EB3 E31 and E36: Skilled workers;
E32 and E37: professionals holding a bachelor's degree or who is a member of a profession.
40,000 7–9 yearsb
EB4 Certain special immigrants—ministers, religious workers, current or former U.S. government workers, etc. 10,000 currently available
EB5 Investors 10,000 currently available
Diversity Immigrant (Green Card Lottery) 50,000  
Political Asylum No numerical limit  
Refugee 70,000  
a 300,000–500,000 immediate relatives admitted annually.
b No more than 7 percent of the visas may be issued to natives of any one country. Currently, individuals from China (mainland), India, Mexico and the Philippines are subject to per-country quotas in most of the categories, and the waiting time may take longer. As of June 2009, in some categories, USCIS is still processing applications filled in 2001.

Want to learn moare about green card category codes? Please visit our Category Codes page.