Immigrants who are granted permanent residency status are issued green cards, which documents legal residency in the United States on a permanent basis. With permanent residency, immigrants are accorded the right to live and work in America.
Permanent residency– technically referred to as lawful permanent residency (LPR)– refers to an immigrant’s visa status. Immigrants applying for permanent residency status can do so either through consular processing while outside the United States or through an application for an adjustment of status while inside the United States.
Permanent resident visas can be issued by the Department of State (DoS.) In these cases, applicants work with U.S. Consulate offices in various countries around the world. With consular processing, individuals who are granted approval of an immigration petition and who have an immigrant visa number immediately available can apply for admittance into the United States as a permanent resident.
For those who are inside the United States and who hold nonimmigrant visas, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows requests for adjustment of status. With approval of this adjustment of status request, USCIS can grant permanent residency status.
Regardless of whether an applicant requests permanent residency from outside or inside the United States, the same requirements apply. In all cases, an immigrant is required to have:
- Eligibility in one of the immigrant categories established in the Immigration and Nationality Act
- Qualifying immigration petition filed and approved– though some exceptions are allowed
- An immediately-available immigrant visa
- Admissibility into the United States
The majority of permanent residency requests are sponsored by U.S. citizen family members s or by U.S. employers. However, other categories as well as a number of other special provisions– including an immigrant’s status as an asylee or refugee– also allow for immigrants to apply for permanent residency.
Those who are considering permanent residency in the United States most effectively expedite the process with a comprehensive understanding of eligibility requirements and the various permanent residency– green card– categories. Other factors– including visa availability– also play a role in the U.S. Permanent Resident process. USCIS offers further guidance on this topic on the “Visa Availability & Priority Dates” page.