New permanent residents and immigrants who are employed in the United States are starting to receive new high-tech green cards and employment authorizations from U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). In April of this year, USCIS announced that it has redesigned the Permanent Resident Card (known as “the green card”) as well as the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as part of what USCIS is calling the “Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project.” USCIS began issuing the redesigned green cards and new EADs in May.

By using enhanced graphics and state-of-the-art, fraud-resistant security features, the redesigned EADs and green cards are far more tamper-resistant than the cards and documents that have previously been used. One of the motives behind the redesign is the ongoing commitment of immigration authorities – USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – to combat aggressively the rising threat of fraud and document tampering.

The redesigned documents are also more visually appealing. The new Employment Authorization Documents feature an image of a bald eagle with a predominately red palette. The new Permanent Resident Cards feature the Statue of Liberty with a mostly green palette. The green cards also no longer include an optical stripe.

Additionally, the new Employment Authorization Documents and Permanent Resident Cards:

  • show the individual’s photograph on both sides
  • do not display the individual’s signature (presumably to make forgery more difficult)
  • use embedded holographic images

HOW CAN YOU KNOW IF YOUR GREEN CARD OR EAD IS VALID?

Some EADs and green cards issued subsequent to May 1, 2017, may still display the old format until USCIS has depleted its inventory of existing card stock. However, already-existing green cards and EADs, as well as the new versions, will remain valid through the expiration date shown on each individual EAD or green card. Both the old and new versions are valid identification for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, E-Verify, and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements.

The Employment Authorization Document is the proof that an immigrant is authorized to accept employment in the United States. Typically, EADs are granted for a one-year period. To help workers avoid gaps in employment authorization, USCIS has automatically extended the expiration date of some EADs – held by those in Temporary Protected Status and other specific categories – beyond the expiration date printed on the document.

Since January 17, 2017, USCIS has automatically extended certain expiring EADs for up to 180 days for applicants who properly filed for a renewal EAD before their current EAD expired and for applicants who are otherwise eligible for a renewal. This extension applies to Form I-765 renewal applications that were pending on January 17, 2017 and to Form I-765 renewal applications filed on or after that date. If your EAD card has been stolen, lost, or destroyed, it may be replaced by submitting a new Form I-765 and filing fee, although in some cases, a fee waiver may be requested and granted.

SHOULD AN OLDER GREEN CARD BE REPLACED?

On some of the older Permanent Resident Cards that are still in use, no expiration date was printed. While these older green cards remain valid, those holding the older cards need to apply now for a new green card with the new format and an expiration date.

No one who is still holding an older green card will lose Legal Permanent Resident Status – so there’s nothing to fear – but if you apply for Social Security benefits or other government services or benefits with an older green card, or if you want or need to travel abroad, you’ll probably encounter some difficulties and delays.

Having a new replacement card also reduces the risk of fraud or card-tampering if a green card is ever stolen or lost. If you are a legal permanent resident who needs to replace your old green card, you may apply for a replacement card by completing and submitting Form I-90, “Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card,” which can be done either online or through the mail.

If you are outside of the United States and your Permanent Resident Card is destroyed, lost, or stolen, you will need to contact the nearest U.S. consulate, USCIS office, or port of entry before you complete and submit a Form I-90. If your Form I-90 application is approved, you will be mailed a replacement green card with an expiration date ten years from the date that the card is issued.

Jack Morris, the unit chief for identity and benefit fraud at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, tells Vice.com that in 2015, his agency made 1,282 arrests related to document fraud including counterfeit green cards. The criminal operations that produce these cards – known as document mills – can be one con artist with a computer and printer or a huge operation bringing in millions of dollars each year. Intentionally using any forged or counterfeit immigration document to obtain employment or benefits is a serious crime that – upon conviction – can lead to prison and/or deportation with no chance of re-entering the U.S.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO KNOW WHEN YOU APPLY FOR A GREEN CARD?

If you have never applied for a green card, let an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney explain the green card procedure, guide you through the process, and help you acquire a green card as quickly as possible.

Although you will need to speak to a good immigration lawyer about the details of your own situation, you should also keep in mind these general recommendations for obtaining a Permanent Resident Card:

  • You need to complete all of the paperwork accurately. Missing or inaccurate documents or forms always delay the approval of a green card. Your attorney can help.
  • Do not become a victim. Ignore emails about “winning” a visa or a green card, and never pay anybody who claims to be selling one. Visas and green cards are available exclusively through the United States government.
  • Make copies of everything, and send everything by certified mail with a return receipt. Leave nothing to chance. Expect delays. It is not uncommon for USCIS to misplace or simply lose something, so you may have to send the same form or document twice.
  • Work only with an experienced immigration lawyer to ensure that your documents and forms are complete, accurate, and on time.

An experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney can help you achieve your goals in the United States and answer all of your questions and concerns about U.S. immigration law, including your questions regarding green cards and EADs. Always obtain the advice of an experienced green card lawyer if you are applying to become a permanent resident, if you are seeking employment authorization, or if you are dealing with any other immigration issue or concern.