US Immigration Guide:
Permanent Residency

In FY 2012, a total of 1,031,631 people became legal permanent residents (LPRs) of the United States. While this sounds like a large amount of people, becoming a US permanent resident can be a long and arduous task.

There are two main paths to permanent residency in the United States, depending on whether an applicant is currently living in the US or abroad.

How to obtain a US Green Card

New Arrivals

Out of the above total, 484,072 people who received US green cards were new arrivals, meaning that they resided in another country before getting a green card.

New arrivals must apply for certain family and employment-based visas, and then become LPRs when admitted at a port of entry.

New arrivals from countries with low rates of legal immigration to the US may be able to gain legal permanent residency status by applying for the US Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.

Adjustment of Status

Persons who are already within the US can apply for an adjustment of status in order to become an LPR. These people generally include certain temporary workers, foreign students, family members of US citizens or alien residents, and undocumented immigrants.

You can also become an LPR if you have refugee or asylee status.

When people apply for an adjustment of status, they may also apply for permission to work in the US.

Find out more about how to obtain a US green card.

Renewing Your Green Card

Your permanent resident status is only permanent as long as you renew it before the expiration date.

However, you may qualify to renew your green card online.

Legal Permanent Resident Rights

Having a green card confers many rights which those with visas do not have, including the right to live and work permanently anywhere in the US, own property, and attend public schools, colleges and universities.

Legal permanent residents may also join certain branches of the Armed Forces, and most are eligible to eventually become US citizens.

However, a green card holder does not enjoy all the privileges of being a US citizen. For example, an LPR cannot vote, and there are certain green card travel restrictions. And of course, an LPR can still be deported for not upholding his or her responsibilities.

Legal Permanent Resident Responsibilities

LPRs also have certain responsibilities to uphold while residing in the US. They must obey all federal, state and local laws, and carry a valid green card at all times.

Green card holders are also required to pay US taxes, and male green card holders ages 18-25 are required to register with the selective service.

Applying for Permanent Residency

We suggest you do extensive personal research before applying for a green card, and consult with an immigration attorney if you have specific questions.

Whether you will be a new arrival or you are looking to adjust your status, put forth your best effort in the process: carefully read and completely fill out all necessary forms, keep copies of everything submitted to USCIS, and obtain certified translations of documents which are in a language other than English. Proactively staying on top of your case can help your legal permanent resident application from being delayed or even denied.


The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Read full disclaimer.