WHAT IS PERMANENT RESIDENCY?
Individuals who have established permanent residency are allowed to live and work in the United States permanently. Once approved, applicants receive a Permanent Residency Card, commonly called a “Green Card.” Sometimes obtaining permanent residency is just referred to colloquially as “having a Green Card.”
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR PERMANENT RESIDENCY?
The requirements for permanent residency can be complex. The following listing is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all eligibility requirements. However, you may be eligible for permanent residency if your situation fits some of the following parameters:
- Relative of a U.S. Citizen (i.e. Parent, Child, Sibling, Spouse or Fiancé(e)
- Immigrant Worker or Investor (with the workers arranged according to tiers of preference)
- Special Immigrant (i.e. meeting certain special criteria, like an abandoned child, a NATO employee, or an international broadcaster, etc.)
- Refugee or Asylee admitted at least one year prior
- Victims of Crime or Human Trafficking
- Victims of Abuse
- Other Categories (i.e. meeting other very specific parameters, such as a Native American born in Canada or diplomats who are unable to return home, etc.)
- Registry (i.e. even if you don’t fit into any of these other categories, you may be eligible to register for a Green Card if you have resided continuously in the U.S. since before Jan. 1, 1972.)
PROCESSES AND PROCEDURES
Depending on your circumstances, the standard procedures for obtaining your “Green Card” will vary. If you are an immigrant who is already residing within the United States, the process you will apply for is called an “Adjustment of Status.” This means your legal status will be adjusted from that of a temporary resident or visitor to a lawful permanent resident. In order to start this process, you would need to submit the necessary paperwork and you may be required to attend an interview with USCIS.
If you are not already living within the United States when you apply for permanent residency, then the procedure you will apply for is called “Consular Processing.” Since you would be outside the United States, in order to apply you would need to visit a U.S. Consulate in whichever country in which you happen to reside. You would then apply for an immigrant visa to both come to the United States and then be admitted as a permanent resident. This process is also what those individuals who are otherwise ineligible for Adjustment of Status would need to apply for.
WHILE YOUR APPLICATION IS PENDING
Should you need to travel while your application for permanent residency is still pending with USCIS, you will need to submit paperwork to apply for permission to travel. Permission can be granted for a re-entry permit, refugee travel document, or parole travel document, including parole into the U.S.A. for humanitarian reasons.
You should wait until your application for travel is approved before proceeding to travel. If you have filed an application for permanent residency and leave the United States without first applying for an advance parole document, then your application for permanent residency is considered abandoned. You would then have to start the process over again.
ONCE PERMANENT RESIDENCY IS OBTAINED
Once you receive your Permanent Resident Card (or “Green Card”), you will be authorized to live and work within the United States on a permanent basis. Your Green Card is your proof that you have been granted this right. If you are over the age of 18, you will be required to have your current, valid Permanent Resident Card on your person at all times.
If you have received a standard 10-year Permanent Resident Card, you will be required to renew your Green Card once a decade (at 10 year intervals from when you first were issued the card). If you were issued a Conditional 2-year Permanent Resident Card, you must file a petition to remove the conditions before your Green Card expires. These 2-year cards cannot be renewed, so the conditions must be removed or your will lose your permanent resident status.