I read on https://www.immigrationdirect.com/immigration-articles/green-card-with-no-expiration-date/:

Green Cards issued between 1964 and 1989, which do not have an expiration date, are still recognized by USCIS.

Green cards issued after 1989 have an expiration date.

Why did the USCIS decide to add an expiration date to the green cards?

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    "Green Cards issued between 1964 and 1989, which do not have an expiration date, are still recognized by USCIS." It is unclear what the article means by "recognized by USCIS". Green cards issued before 1977 are I-151 with no expiration date, which are no longer valid. Green cards issued after 1977 are I-551, which are still valid, including ones issued before 1989 that have no expiration date.
    – user102008
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 0:26
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    @user102008 the linked article further implies, incorrectly, that the name change from "Alien Registration Receipt Card" to "Permanent Resident Card" happened in 1964. The site seems like a bad source in general, though it is correct about when the expiration date was added.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 0:33
  • I don't know whether this was part of the original motivation, but green card renewal has turned into a revenue stream for USCIS. Global entry requires a background check, biometrics, an interview, and mailing out a photo ID. It costs $100. Green card renewal requires biometrics, a background check, and mailing out a photo ID. It costs $540. Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 4:16
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    The renewal fees have risen fairly sharply in recent years, even ignoring biometrics. In 1997 the earliest year available in the online cfr, the fee was $75, which is $121.25 after adjusting for inflation to November 2019 (the most recent month for which the CPI is available). Today the fee without the biometrics is $455, greater by a factor of 3.75. So I doubt this was the thinking in 1989.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 5:44
  • @PatriciaShanahan I forgot to ping you in the previous comment. I also want to add that over the same time the passport application fee has doubled from $55 to $110 (so less than doubled after adjusting for inflation) and the execution fee has increased from $10 to $35 (so also a smaller increase after adjusting for inflation, but much closer in magnitude).
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 18:16

1 Answer 1


It was part of a broader redesign that was intended to combat document fraud. The New York Times notes in New 'Green Card' To Tackle Fraud (August 24, 1989) that the color and other characteristics were to change, "largely...to stem a black market in alien certification." It reports that forged cards were thought to number in the tens of thousands.

New security measures included "a special blend of ink" used to give the card a pink color that was hoped to be "difficult to duplicate," as well as embossed lamination, optically variable ink, and machine-readable data on the back. Other security measures that were already in place included a photograph of the bearer along with the bearer's signature and fingerprint.

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