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Wednesday, April 22, 1998 Published at 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK


New green card aims to make forgers blue
image: [ The new green card -  seen by millions of immigrants as a passport to success in a new life in America. ]
The new green card - seen by millions of immigrants as a passport to success in a new life in America.

The United States has introduced a high-tech version of the so-called green card which is issued to legal immigrants who live permanently in the country. The new card features holograms and minutely detailed pictures and is intended to make it significantly more difficult to forge.

Unlike the laminated paper versions, the new card is a plastic document similar to a credit card. The term green card has been a misnomer since the 1960s when the US switched to various hues of blue and, most recently, pink. As shown in the above picture, the new version continues this trend. It is white plastic but does have a thick, green stripe on the back. Jane Hughes reports from New York:

The 'green card', the passport to employment and residency for millions of permanent immigrants to the US, has been the target of counterfeiters for years.

Recent changes in US immigration rules have made forgery an even more lucrative business.

Fake cards are said to sell for as much as $15,000 each, and the forging of them is a multi-million dollar business involving international crime syndicates.

The new card, which is intended to foil such counterfeiters, cost $38m to develop.

Similar in appearance to a credit card, it incorporates an optical memory stripe containing encrypted information which can be read by a scanner.

It also has the digital photograph of the owner, holograms and microdot portraits of American presidents on it.

The first batch of plastic cards has been sent out to 50,000 new green card holders.

But there are some 10m cards in circulation in all, so the immigration service says it will be years before the new high-tech cards completely replace the old, more easily forged documents.

By then, counterfeiters are more than likely to have worked out how to fake the new cards.

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