How to Read a Green Card: Explained!

A green card (GC), officially known as a Permanent Resident (PR) Card, is an identification card that signifies an individual’s status as a lawful permanent resident of the United States. It contains important information about the cardholder. USCIS introduced latest version of Green Card in Jan-2023. USCIS continuously improves design in order to address security measures, but it will not invalidate old cards.

Table of Content

New Design Improvements

2023 Green Card improvements

Here’s a general guide on how to read a green card:

Front of a Green Card

2023 Green Card back

Full Name

  • Your legal name is printed at two places. If your full name is long then some characters may be truncated.

Country of Birth

  • The cardholder’s country of birth is mentioned on the card.


  • This is cardholder’s alien registration number or “A-number”. This is a unique identification number assigned to the cardholder. See, What is USCIS A-Number

Category Code

  • The category code indicates the basis for the individual’s eligibility for permanent residency. See, Green Card Category Codes

Date of Birth

  • The cardholder’s date of birth.


  • The gender of the cardholder.

Resident Since

  • The date when the cardholder became a permanent resident of the United States.

Card Expires

  • This is the expiry date of Green Card. Normaly card will have validity period of 10 years.

Back of a Green Card

2023 Green Card front

The back of a U.S. Permanent Resident Card, commonly known as a green card (Form I-551), contains important information as well. Here’s an explanation of the typical elements you will find on the back of a green card:


  • A barcode is often present, containing encoded information related to the cardholder. This barcode facilitates quick and accurate data retrieval when the card is scanned.

Machine-Readable Zone (MRZ)

  • The MRZ is a series of numbers and characters at the bottom of the card, which can be read by machines. It contains information similar to what is displayed on the front of the card, allowing for automated processing.

First Line

  • Characters 1–2: C1 or C2. (C1 = Resident within the United States C2 = Permanent Resident commuter living in Canada or Mexico)
  • Characters 3–5: USA (issuing country, United States)
  • Characters 6–14: 9-digit number (Alien Number or A-Number)
  • Character 15: Application receipt number
  • Characters 16–30: Immigrant’s case number. The “<” symbol represents a blank space

Second Line

  • Characters 1-6: Birth date (in YY/MM/DD format)
  • Character 7: not documented, maybe a check digit
  • Character 8: Gender
  • Characters 9-14: Expiration date (in YY/MM/DD format)
  • Character 15: Not documented, maybe a check digit
  • Characters 16-29: Country of birth
  • Character 30: Not documented, maybe a check digit

Third Line

  • Last name, first name, middle name, first initial of father, first initial of mother (this line is spaced with “«” between the last name and first name). Depending on the length of the name, the father’s and mother’s initials may be omitted.

Always ensure that the information on the green card matches the details of the cardholder. If there are any errors or discrepancies, it’s essential to contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to rectify them. Additionally, it’s crucial to be aware of the card’s expiration date and take necessary steps to renew it before it expires.