DEFINITION of 'Green Card'

A permit issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that allows individuals to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. "Green card" is an informal term for a United States Permanent Resident Card. The identification cards were green from 1946 until 1964; the green color returned in May 2010. Permanent residents of the United States who are 18 years old or older are required to carry a green card at all times to avoid being in violation of Section 264(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

BREAKING DOWN 'Green Card'

Individuals can be eligible for green card status through family, a job, refugee or asylee status, or through a variety of special adjustment programs. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program makes a certain number of diversity visas available each year. This "green card lottery" selects individuals to become permanent residents of the United States out of a pool of more than 10 million applicants. The applicants are not required to possess any special skills or be sponsored by family members; instead, each must come from a country that has low rates of immigration to the United States. No single country can win more than 7% of the total number of visas.

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