Green Card Number Explained

After getting a green card, you may not know how to interpret the contents of the card. This is because, in May 2010, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) introduced additional features to the existing permanent resident card to enhance security and faster authentication of the new card. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about a green card number, what it does, where to find it, and so much more.

What Is A Green Card Number?

Also known as a receipt number or a permanent resident card number, a green card number is a 13-digit number printed on a permanent resident card. Every permanent resident of the United States has a unique green card number; they are never the same.

Is A Green Card Number The Same As An Alien Registration Number?

Many people often confuse a green card number with an alien registration number. However, these two are very much different from each other. Here’s why:

An alien registration number, also known as the A-Number, is a 7-9 digit number assigned to any alien applying for a green card regardless of their eligibility. This unique number is given to anyone who intends to reside permanently in the United States, and helps the USCIS track a petition filed by the petitioner.

For example, if you are on a tourist visa, the USCIS will not assign you an alien number because you are expected to return to your country on the last day of your visit. However, despite the fact that the A-Number is issued to individuals applying for a green card, the only exception is immigrants who are on an F-1 student visa. They are usually assigned an alien registration number even though they are in the country as students, and not permanent residents.

Where To Find A Green Card Number On A Permanent Resident Card

If you are having a rough time trying to figure out the difference between a green card number and an A-Number, you may consider the following for your reference:

  • A green card number usually consists of 13 digits, while an A-Number has between seven and nine digits.
  • A green card number is usually found on the back of your permanent resident card, while an A-Number is found on the front.
  • An A-Number is also the same as the USCIS number.
  • The A-Number on immigrant visas is usually listed as the Registration Number
  • On Employment Authorization Cards, alternatively known as work permits, the A-number is also the same as the USCIS number

How To Identify The Green Card Number

It is one thing to know that a green card number is found on the back of a permanent resident card, but a totally different thing to identify it. Given that permanent resident cards come with so many numbers, it is important to be able to point out the green card number just by taking a quick look at the card. Here are the steps to identifying a green card number on the back of the card.

Step #1 – Locating The Exact Section

On the back of the card, there is a bottom section with a set of numbers, letters and symbols. The symbols are: greater than (>) and smaller than (<). These symbols are usually used as placeholders to prevent forgery and for scanning purposes. When you count the numbers, symbols and letters together on the first line, they will add up to 30. Each line has 30 characters making up a single row. Also, this section of the card contains three rows, making it a total of 90 characters.

Step #2 – Understanding The Format Of The Green Card Number

The first line of the 30-character row starts with a C1 or C2. If the row starts with a C1, it means the green card holder is a permanent resident of the United States. If it starts with C2, it means the card holder is a permanent resident commuter from Mexico or Canada.

The next letters show the country of residence, in this case, USA. They are represented by digits three to five of the first row.

Now, this is where you need to be extra attentive; the next ten digits represent the alien registration number of the card holder. Many people often confuse this with the green card number; it is not.

Right after the alien registration number, the green card number begins. Here’s how to identify it:

Step #3 – Identifying The Green Card Number

At the back of the card, each line contains 30 characters. The green card number is found in the last 13 characters of the first line, and is followed by two space holders, usually a greater than or less than symbol. If you count each number on the first line based on its position, the full green card number is the set of numbers found from position 16 to 28 of the first line.

Step #4 – Decoding The Three Letters Of A Green Card Number

This number usually starts with three letters that have a unique meaning. The three letters represent the service center that received your case for permanent residency. For example:

CSC

Means California Service Center

EAC

Means Eastern Adjudication Center (now known as Vermont Service Center)

IOE

Means ELIS (e-file)

LIN

Means Lincoln Service Center (now known as Nebraska Service Center)

MSC

Means Missouri Service Center (now known as National Benefits Center)

NBC

Means National Benefits Center

NSC

Means Nebraska Service Center

SRC

Means Southern Regional Center (now known as Texas Service Center)

TSC

Means Texas Service Center

VSC

Means Vermont Service Center

WAC

Means Western Adjudication Center (also known as California Service Center)

YSC

Means Potomac Service Center

Now that you know where to find the green card number, what it does, and how to identify it, you shouldn’t have a problem any time you are required to present it to a government agency such as the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, if for any reason you are unable to identify the number, or you’re facing any other challenges, it is always advisable to contact an experienced law firm for further guidance. The law firm should be able to assign you a professional immigration lawyer to study your case and provide the much-needed legal advice.