How to Become a Permanent Legal Resident of the United States

By | August 25, 2011

For many people, the prospect of U.S. citizenship is a far-off goal, something they’ll work towards in the long-term but something they ultimately cannot achieve overnight. This can be discouraging for people who want to live and work in the United States right away.

But luckily there’s another option that allows foreign citizens to live and work in America: legal permanent resident status.

Often indicated physically with the presence of a green card (more officially known as a United States Permanent Resident Card), permanent residence is the key to immigrating to the United States legally and avoiding any entanglements that often come as a result of sneaking in across the border.

There’s just one question: how can you become a legal permanent resident here in the United States? Let’s focus on the key issues.

“Ways In” to Permanent Resident Status

Becoming a permanent resident of the United States often requires some sort of connection with people who already live in the country. How close you are to these people can help determine whether or not you’ll be able to achieve permanent resident status or not.

For example, if you’re hired by an American company, you can file for permanent resident status and use the hiring as the reason for living here. You can also immigrate to the U.S. and have reasonable confidence in achieving permanent resident status if you’re related to a U.S. citizen – for example, if you’re coming here to take care of your mother or to live with a son.

Other options are available, such as immigration through investment, refugee status, and the “Diversity Lottery.”

The problems often associated with becoming a permanent resident in the United States relate to the process and approval of a green card. The application process can be long and cumbersome.

The Three-Step Process to Permanent Residency

Many times someone will file a petition on your behalf, usually the person who is your connection to United States citizenship. If you’re being hired to work in the U.S., then your employer will often file the initial applications. If you’re visiting a family member, then your family member will usually take on that responsibility.

This step in the process is known as the Immigrant Petition, and usually requires a simple download of legal forms which are then filled out and sent back to the government.

The second step in this process is known as Immigrant Visa Availability, whereupon you may receive a visa to live in the United States. Depending on the intimacy of your connection to a U.S. citizen, it might be possible to skip this step in the process.

After a visa is available in the second step, it’s then possible to apply for full residency status in the third step, Immigrant Visa Adjudication. An application to adjust the status from visa-granted to permanent resident will be filled out and then submitted to the U.S. government for ultimate approval.

Problems and Differences

Not everyone will go through this three-step process. For example, the non-U.S. citizen spouse of a green card holder may be separated from their spouse for years before they are able to receive full access to the country themselves, going through a long and difficult process if they aren’t able to achieve a green card on their own.

Every person’s unique situation will mean they have to face a certain process for immigrating to the United States.  That’s why it’s important to ask yourself whether you qualify for a green card in the United States thanks to a relationship mentioned in this article. If you don’t have a family member or employer who’s already in the United States, the road to citizenship and even permanent resident status can be much more difficult.

Stick With It

Ultimately, if a U.S. citizenship is your goal, then you’ll want to stick with the process, however long it takes. Eventually, if you go through the proper channels, you’ll get there. At the very least, finding access to a green card and legal residency status will be enough to feel like you’re a part of the U.S. – or at least live with the relative that you want to live with, or work for the employer you want to work for.

It may be difficult at times, but finding permanent legal residency in the U.S. will be vital for maintaining a long-term relationship with this country and the people who inhabit it. And make sure you file papers as soon as possible – there’s no time to lose!

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