What is the History of the Green Card in the United States?

Erick Widman

The green card is a vital part of the United States’ immigration system. It serves as a symbol of legal permanent residency and allows individuals to live and work in the country on a long-term basis. But where did the green card come from, and how has it evolved over time?

The history of the green card can be traced back to the late 19th century, when the U.S. government began to regulate immigration more closely. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese immigrants from entering the country for ten years. This was followed by other laws that restricted immigration from specific countries and regions.

In 1924, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, which established a quota system for immigration based on nationality. Under this system, immigrants were allocated a certain number of spots based on their country of origin. The quota system was in effect until 1965, when it was replaced by a new system that placed greater emphasis on family reunification and skilled workers.

The green card itself was first introduced in 1940, as part of the Alien Registration Act. This law required all non-citizens to register with the government and carry a registration card at all times. The card was originally white, but it was later changed to green in 1951.

In the early days, green cards were issued to individuals who had been admitted to the United States for permanent residence. However, this changed in 1952 with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This law created a new category of immigrants known as “non-immigrants,” who were admitted to the U.S. for temporary periods of time. Non-immigrants were issued a different type of card known as a “non-immigrant visa,” which was not green.

Over the years, the green card has undergone several changes. In 1989, a new version of the card was introduced that featured a hologram to deter fraud. In 1998, the card was redesigned again to include a magnetic strip and other security features.

Today, the green card remains an important part of the U.S. immigration system. It provides a pathway to permanent residency and eventual citizenship, and it allows individuals to work and live in the country for extended periods of time. While the process of obtaining a green card can be complex and challenging, for many immigrants, it is a key step on the path to building a better life in the United States.

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