Why is it Called a Green Card?

The Green Card is a United States immigration document that has a relatively long history. Though it hasn’t been around since Ellis Island times it is about 60 years old, older than many of the immigration agencies of the United States!

One thing that has remained invariable about the Green Card is that it has always signified that a holder has permanent residency in the United States. This means that the person with the green card can live, work, travel and study in America with most of the same rights as a citizen.

But why is it called a Green Card?

It’s called a Green Card, despite its technical name (Permanent Resident Card), because it has a slightly green hue. When it first came out into use it was a slightly brighter shade of green and the shock of color must have inspired the now famous appellation “Green Card”.

For a short period of time, near the end of the 20th century, the Permanent Resident Card was redesigned and when it was re-introduced it was no longer green, but white.

However, the government returned this immigration document back to its original and iconic color to avoid confusion. Despite the new color, people still called it the Green Card. The term “Green Card” became so pervasive that it became more of a symbolic phrase instead of an actual description of the document.

Now, Green Card is often used as a stand-in for the lengthier “Lawful Permanent Resident”. The phrase “Green Card” is simply shorthand for the process of legal immigration. A person may say “When did you get your Green Card?” and really what they are asking is “When did you immigrate to the United States?”

By “Getting your Green Card” you are “Immigrating to the United States legally.” Green Card, is simply a verbal shortcut in American English.