Paths to U.S. Permanent Resident Status
For most immigrants who wish to make their home in the United States, becoming a lawful permanent resident (LPR) is the first step. This status allows the person to live in the U.S. on a permanent basis, so long as he or she doesn’t commit any crimes or other violations that would result in deportation (removal).
Qualifying for a green card to live in the United States can be a challenge. The law strictly set out categories of people eligible for green cards, and in some categories, limits the number of green cards that can be given out each year.
Residency Application System
International Medical Graduates (IMGs) must meet certain criteria in order to apply for U.S.-based residency programs.
Preference Relatives of U.S. Citizens
A limited number of (480,000) green cards are given out to other relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents referred to as preference relatives. The result is long waits in most categories. The wait tends to range from three to 25 years. Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens tend to face the longest waits.
The green cards are given out on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier an intending immigrant’s relative turns in the initial petition on Form I-130 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the sooner the immigrant can apply for a green card.
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What About Employees and Workers?
A total of 140,000 green cards are available each year for people whose job skills are needed in the U.S. job market and who offer skills which an employer cannot find among U.S. workers. In most cases, a job offer is required before the immigrant can seek a green card, and the employer needs to begin, and actively participate in the application process.
Green Card Lottery: Diversity Visa
There are 50,000 green cards available each year through the diversity visa, popularly referred to as the green card lottery. Only citizens of certain countries may apply. The countries on the list are those that have, in the past, sent the fewest numbers of immigrants to the United States.
Applications are accepted online by the Department of State for one month, usually toward the end of the year. Applicants must also meet certain educational qualifications. The application process is free.
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