Immigration: A Brief Glance
Lawful Permanent Resident Status (“Green Card” Holder): Lawful permanent residents (LPR status) are allowed to reside and work permanently in the United States. Lawful Permanent Residents are also known as “Green Card” holders.
How to Obtain a Green Card: There are various ways to obtain a Green Card or LPR status. One of the most common ways is by obtaining an immigration visa. Other mechanisms are available to acquire LPR status (i.e. adjusting “refugee” or “asylum” status), but obtaining an immigration visa is the most common.
Immigration Visas: In order to be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, a foreign citizen must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen relative, lawful permanent resident, or a prospective employer. The sponsor begins the immigration process by filing a petition on the foreign citizen’s behalf with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Limited situations allow for “self-petitioning” but in most circumstances, a sponsor is needed.
- Availability of Immigration Visas:
There are a limited number of visas (except for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens -see below) and Congress sets the maximum number of available visas for any allowable category while dividing each category into priority tiers.
Family Based Visas and Employment/Job Offer Based Visas are the most common; however, other visa petitions are available (i.e. diversity-based visas)
If you are in a family or employment based preference category, visa availability is determined by your priority date, the preference category you are immigrating under and the country the visa will be charged to (usually your country of citizenship).
- Family Base Immigration Visas
These visas are granted to persons meeting certain family relationship criteria to a U.S. Citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident. Priorities for issuance of these visas are noted below.
Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens: A visa is always available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. There is no limit to the number of these visas that can be used and these individuals do not have to wait for one to become available. Immediate relatives include:
- Parents of a U.S. citizen;
- Spouses of a U.S. citizen
- Unmarried children under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen
Preferences given to other family relationships:
- 1st Tier: Unmarried, sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (21+ years old)
- 2nd Tier:
- A: Spouses of permanent residents and the unmarried children (under the age of 21)) of permanent residents
- B: Unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents (21+ years old)
- 3rd Tier: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, their spouses and their minor children
- 4th Tier: Siblings of adult U.S. citizens, their spouses and their minor children
- Job or Employment Based Immigration Visas:
When an immigrant visa number becomes available, the following preferences for these types of visas are as follows:
- 1st Tier: Priority Workers, including persons with extraordinary abilities, outstanding professors and researchers, and certain multinational executives and managers
- 2nd Tier: Professionals that hold an advanced degree or persons of exceptional ability
- 3rd Tier: Skilled Workers, professionals and other qualified workers
- 4th Tier: Certain special immigrants including those in religious vocations
- 5th Tier: Employment creation immigrants (investors or entrepreneurs)
Naturalized Citizenship: Legal Permanent Residents may seek to become “naturalized” after meeting certain criteria below.
General requirements are that the applicant must:
- Be 18 years of age;
- Be a lawfully admitted permanent resident (See Above)
-Have resided continuously in the United States for five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen) after being admitted for LPR status. The permanent resident is required to have been physically present in the U.S. at least half time during the five years prior to filing the application for citizenship;
- Be of good moral character; and
- Support the Constitution and be disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S.
NOTE: (This information is not intended to provide definitive answers regarding legal immigration status, rights associated therewith, or actions required to obtain any desired status. Immigration laws change rapidly and this information is only intended to provide a cursory overview of immigration matters. Please see an attorney if you have any questions regarding your legal matter.)