Prior to February of 2015, every I-551 card (also known as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) card or Green Card) was generally required to be signed by the card-holder. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would generally only waive the signature requirement for Green Cards if the beneficiary was a child under the age of consent to provide a signature, or if the recipient was physically unable to provide a signature. However, this rule appears to now be changing rapidly.
USCIS announced in February of 2015 [link] that it is now greatly expanding the number of situations in which it waives the signature requirement for Green Cards. USCIS is now will waive the Green Card signature requirement for beneficiaries entering the United States for the first time as LPRs after obtaining an immigrant visa abroad from a U.S. Embassy or consulate. When USCIS issues a Green Card where the signature requirement is waived, the card will be marked “Signature Waived” on the front and the back where the Green Card signatures would normally be signed (the external link to the USCIS announcement includes a picture of what Green Cards marked “signature waived” look like). Green Card applicants who are applying to enter the United States for the first time as LPRs should be aware that they will not be required to provide Green Card signatures so long as this new USCIS policy remains in effect.
Since this policy change means that we will likely begin seeing many more Green Cards without signatures, it is important for employers to know that Green Cards marked “signature waived” are acceptable documents for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification purposes. Provided that the Green Card is unexpired, appears to be of the person presenting it, and appears to be genuine, employers may not reject Green Cards marked “signature waived.” In general, Green Cards marked “signature waived” also work exactly the same as Green Cards with signatures for the purpose of proving the Green Card-holder's identity.
Resources and materials:
“Did You Know? A Green Card Does Not Always Have a Signature,” USCIS, June 4, 2015, available at http://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/did-you-know-green-card-does-not-always-have-signature [link]
“E-Verify Connection: A Newsletter for All Employers” (June 2015), published on AILA InfoNet at Doc. No. 15063008 (posted Jun. 30, 2015)
“Green Cards Without a Signature Are Acceptable Documents” (July 20, 2015), published on AILA InfoNet at Doc. No. 15072012 (posted Jul. 20, 2015)