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What Is the History of the U.S. Green Card?

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A modern-day green card.

Permanent residence, also known as a having a "green card," is the legal status granted to immigrants to the United States who are authorized to live and work in the country on a permanent basis.

Its beginnings.

The history of green cards and permanent residence in the United States dates to the Immigration Act of 1917 that established the very first system for regulating and limiting immigration to the country.

Before 1917, there were no legal restrictions on immigration to the U.S., and people from all over the world were able to come to the country and stay here without any formal process. But, as the country's population grew and concerns about national security and labor competition grew, the government started to put limits on immigration and to create a more formalized system to control who could enter the country and under what conditions.

The 1917 Act established a quota system that limited the number of immigrants from each country and required prospective immigrants to obtain visas from American consulates abroad. It also created the concept of "permanent resident" status, which allowed certain immigrants to live and work in the United States indefinitely. However, the quota system was heavily skewed in favor of Northern and Western European countries, and it excluded many immigrants from other parts of the world, especially from Asia and Africa.

Its evolutions.

Over the next several decades, the United States continued to develop its system for regulating immigration and granting permanent resident status.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, also known as the McCarran-Walter Act, abolished the national origins quota system and established a preference system that favored immigrants with specific skills and qualifications.

The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, eliminated the preference system and replaced it with a system that prioritized family reunification and skilled workers.

The green card today.

Today, the United States continues to grant permanent resident status to immigrants who meet certain eligibility criteria and who are either sponsored by a family member, employer, or other entity, or who are selected in an annual Green Card Lottery.

Green card holders are entitled to many of the same rights and privileges as American citizens, including the right to live and work in the country indefinitely, the right to travel in and out of the country, and the right to access certain government benefits.

If you are interested in participating in the Green Card Lottery, you can complete your application complete your application here.

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