Green Card

Latest Generation of Green Cards Among Most Secure IDs Worldwide

Organizations often take one of two approaches to security: reactionary, acting after a crisis to patch a hole, or proactive, taking preventive action before a problem trips them up.

When the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) last year upgraded the technology in its permanent resident cards, colloquially called "green cards," it took the second path.

“We do not have problems with the old one, but we didn’t want to wait until we had problems; we wanted to stay ahead of any problems,” said Sandra Landis, chief of the integrated document production division at CIS. “It’s always prudent to upgrade the security features of documents that have a long lifecycle in circulation.”

The approximately 750,000 cards issued between 1979 and 1989 have no expiration date, and the generation of cards after that expires after 10 years, making green cards one of the longest-circulating identity documents in the country. According to Lasercard, the company that has manufactured the card’s base component for 14 years, CIS orders between 1.8 and 2 million cards per year.

The new cards, which began circulating in May 2010, boast visual, physical and digital security features, including optical security media (OSM) from Lasercard and an RFID tag. Indeed, just two months after its release, Frost and Sullivan placed the U.S. green card at the top of the list of the most secure government-based identity documents. Report authors described the upgraded card as “among the most physically secure and counterfeit-resistant machine-readable identification cards ever issued.”

The OSM itself has three layers of data protection. The visual level consists of high-resolution security images printed at 24,000 dpi (the average magazine is printed at 300 dpi). This level of detail makes it "virtually impossible for criminals to copy without having access to millions of dollars of printing equipment," according to Stephen Price-Francis, Lasercard’s vice president of marketing.  It also has a personalized embedded hologram that consists of a laser-etched likeness of the cardholder and some biographical information, such as name, gender and card expiration date.  Finally, the OSM contains a hidden image that an inspector can reveal only with a laser light.

The card itself has a second-generation RFID tag that can be read from up to 30 feet away. When sensors at a border crossing detect the presence of the tag, they automatically begin the process of bringing up a cardholder’s file, which makes the border-crossing process more efficient.

The results of the past year testify to the card’s high level of security. Landis said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the department that handles the enforcement aspect of the green card program, has yet to detect any attempts at counterfeiting the cards. According to Price-Francis, counterfeiters would have to make a significant capital investment in a multi-year research and development program to come even close to reproducing the card. Instead, said Landis, counterfeiters are focusing their efforts on less-secure generations of cards that were issued before the previous generation.

And the final change CIS made to the card? It’s color. The card had been white but is now green, meaning it once again lives up to its name: The nickname came about in the early years of the program, when cards were actually green. Between 1964 and 2010, though, they sported a variety of colors, including pink and blue. 

About the Author

Laura Williams is content development editor for Security Products magazine.


  • 12 Commercial Crime Sites to Do Your Research

    12 Commercial Crime Sites to Do Your Research

    Understanding crime statistics in your industry and area is crucial for making important decisions about your security budget. With so much information out there, how can you know which statistics to trust? Read Now

  • Boosting Safety and Efficiency

    Boosting Safety and Efficiency

    In alignment with the state of Mississippi’s mission of “Empowering Mississippi citizens to stay connected and engaged with their government,” Salient's CompleteView VMS is being installed throughout more than 150 state boards, commissions and agencies in order to ensure safety for thousands of constituents who access state services daily. Read Now

  • Live From GSX: Post-Show Review

    Live From GSX: Post-Show Review

    This year’s Live From GSX program was a rousing success! Again, we’d like to thank our partners, and IPVideo, for working with us and letting us broadcast their solutions to the industry. You can follow our Live From GSX 2023 page to keep up with post-show developments and announcements. And if you’re interested in working with us in 2024, please don’t hesitate to ask about our Live From programs for ISC West in March or next year’s GSX. Read Now

    • Industry Events
    • GSX
  • People Say the Funniest Things

    People Say the Funniest Things

    By all accounts, GSX version 2023 was completely successful. Apparently, there were plenty of mix-ups with the airlines and getting aircraft from the East Coast into Big D. I am all ears when I am in a gathering of people. You never know when a nugget of information might flip out. Read Now

    • Industry Events
    • GSX

Featured Cybersecurity


New Products

  • AC Nio

    AC Nio

    Aiphone, a leading international manufacturer of intercom, access control, and emergency communication products, has introduced the AC Nio, its access control management software, an important addition to its new line of access control solutions. 3

  • PE80 Series

    PE80 Series by SARGENT / ED4000/PED5000 Series by Corbin Russwin

    ASSA ABLOY, a global leader in access solutions, has announced the launch of two next generation exit devices from long-standing leaders in the premium exit device market: the PE80 Series by SARGENT and the PED4000/PED5000 Series by Corbin Russwin. These new exit devices boast industry-first features that are specifically designed to provide enhanced safety, security and convenience, setting new standards for exit solutions. The SARGENT PE80 and Corbin Russwin PED4000/PED5000 Series exit devices are engineered to meet the ever-evolving needs of modern buildings. Featuring the high strength, security and durability that ASSA ABLOY is known for, the new exit devices deliver several innovative, industry-first features in addition to elegant design finishes for every opening. 3

  • QCS7230 System-on-Chip (SoC)

    QCS7230 System-on-Chip (SoC)

    The latest Qualcomm® Vision Intelligence Platform offers next-generation smart camera IoT solutions to improve safety and security across enterprises, cities and spaces. The Vision Intelligence Platform was expanded in March 2022 with the introduction of the QCS7230 System-on-Chip (SoC), which delivers superior artificial intelligence (AI) inferencing at the edge. 3