U.S. issues redesigned, RFID-enhanced 'green cards'

Holographic images, laser-engraved fingerprints and high-resolution micro-images are among the enhancements for Permanent Resident Cards

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun issuing its newly redesigned "green card" for permanent residents that includes enhanced security and efficiency features, including a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag.

Starting May 11, USCIS began issuing all-new Permanent Resident Cards, known as the green card, in the redesigned format. The card is provided to legal permanent residents as proof of residency and authorization to work within the United States. The goal of the redesign was to deter counterfeiting and tampering and to facilitate quick and accurate authentication, the agency said in a news release May 11.

"Redesigning the green card is a major achievement for USCIS," Director Alejandro Mayorkas said. "The new security technology makes a critical contribution to the integrity of the immigration system."

The RFID tag is a microchip that contains data that may be read wirelessly with a reader. This capability was included to allow the card to be read at a distance at border crossings to improve the efficiency of the entry processing. “The RFID capability will allow Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry to read the card from a distance and compare it immediately to file data,” according to the news release.

Currently, the Homeland Security Department has authorized several other types of official identification with RFID tags that may be used at the land borders under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. These include U.S. passports issued after October 2008, U.S. passport cards and so-called enhanced driver’s licenses issued in Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington state.

Other features of the green card redesign include holographic images, laser-engraved fingerprints, and high resolution micro-images on the card to deter counterfeiting. Tighter integration of the card design with personalized elements will make it difficult to alter the card if it is stolen. A preprinted return address will make it easier to return a lost card to the USCIS.

The card also will be issued with green tinting in keeping with its informal name.

LaserCard Corp., which provided the green card technologies, said the new card is the first implementation of optical security media and the RFID on a single card.

“We worked closely with the USCIS to develop the most physically secure and counterfeit-resistant identification credentials available today,” said Bob DeVincenzi, president of LaserCard, said in a May 12 statement. LaserCard first implemented optical technologies on the green card in 1998. “This new version with enhanced visual and physical security puts a credible copy even further out of the reach of counterfeiters,” DeVincenzi said.

The new security features of the green card include high-resolution offset printing resolved at up to 25,000 dots per inch. The optical media on the card stores digital information including the cardholder’s photograph, fingerprint, name, digitized signature, date of birth and registration number. The information can only be read by DHS personnel using a custom secure reader, LaserCard said in the release.

 

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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