History of the Green Card:

Although we call it green card today, the history of the green card shows that it was always not green. In early 1940s, under the Alien Registration Act, the first green card was referred as Alien Registration Receipt Card Form AR-3 issued by the government and was actually a white one..

Under the Alien Registration Act of 1940, Foreign nationals who are not US citizens have to register with the US government and everyone who registered with the government received Alien Registration Receipt Card Form AR-3.  The card did not confirm a foreigner’s illegal or legal status in United States. There were no complicated immigration procedures involved in applying for a card and all non- US citizens could register at a Post Office and receive a Form AR-3 through the mail.

After the World War II, when a large amount of Europeans and other settlers arrived, the above simple procedure of registering through Post Office had changed. Instead, migrants had to register upon arrival at the port of entry. The AR-3 Alien Registration Receipt Cards were ceased to exist. For the first time, the government categorized foreigners based on their admission status, and issued several different cards to them. Visitors received an I-94c, temporary foreign laborers received an I-100a, and the permanent residents received the small green I-151card. The newly created green card entitled migrants to present themselves as lawful permanent residents and live and work indefinitely in United States because of the card had no expiration date.

In 1950, new regulations issued by INS made the new Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form I-151) more valuable. Effective April 17, 1951, holders of Form AR-3 allowed replacing their AR-3 cards with a new Form I-151, the green card. However, only the foreigners with legal status, who could prove their legal admission to United States, could have their AR-3 replaced with an I-151. For those who were unable to prove their legal status were denied a green card and were subjected to prosecution for violation of U.S. immigration laws. By the time of 1951, everyone referred to it by its color due to the card's weighty official title

By 1951, The term "green card" designated not only the document itself, but also the official status. The status became so desirable to many legal non immigrants and undocumented foreigners who did not have the green card. During this time, the counterfeit of Form I-151 by people became a serious problem. To eliminate document fraud, the INS issued 19 different designs of the I-151 between its introduction in the 1940's and its complete revision in 1977. In 1964, the color of the green card was changed to pale blue. In 1966, it was changed to dark blue. Despite the color, the I-151 continued to refer as “green card,” and  still carries with it the benefits indicated by the term "green card."

In January 1977, after years of research to produce a counterfeit –proof Alien Registration Receipt Card for Lawful Permanent Residents, INS introduced a machine-readable Alien Registration Receipt Card Form I-551. In use today, the I-551 green card has been issued in various colors as well, including pink ("rose") and pink-and-blue. Despite these changes in form number, design, and color, the INS document which represents an alien's right to live and work in the United States will probably always be known as a "Green Card."