How Do I Obtain Permanent Residence (Green Card)?

As a Permanent Resident, you have the right to live and work in the U.S. for the rest of your life. You must pay taxes, contribute to social security, and register for the military draft if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 26. However, you may not vote or hold public office, and certain jobs are not open to you. You are restricted in the amount of time that you may spend outside of the U.S. and are limited as to which relatives you may sponsor for permanent residence. If you are convicted of a serious crime, or otherwise violate the immigration laws, such as immigration fraud, you may be subject to expulsion from the U.S. unless you get your conviction vacated with a Coram Nobis petition.

You may become a permanent resident by any of the following methods:

Relatives in the United States – Most of the persons who become permanent residents each year are sponsored by close relatives who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. U.S. citizens may petition for their spouses, parents, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters (whether they are married or single, and whether they are minors or adults). Permanent residents may only petition for their spouses and their unmarried sons and daughters.

Immediate Relatives (parents, spouses, and children of U.S. citizens – children being unmarried and under 21 years of age, and, in the case of a parent of a U.S. citizen, the petitioning son or daughter being at least 21 years of age, widows and widowers of U.S. citizens provided that the widow(er) was the spouse of the citizen for at least two years prior to the citizen’s death and was not legally separated from the citizen at the time of his or her death) have first claim on “relative” visas, without regard to number limitations.  The number of immediate relatives who are granted visas is subtracted from the total number of family – sponsored visas available. Regardless of how many immediate relatives are granted visas annually, at least 226, 000 visas will be available to persons in four Family Preference categories:

1st Preference – Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (23,400 annually, plus any unused visas from the 4th Preference category, if any).

2nd Preference – Spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents (114,200 annually, plus the amount by which visas allocated to the family preference categories exceeds 226,000, plus unused visas from the 1st Preference category, if any).

3rd Preference – Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (23,400 annually, plus unused visas from the 1st and 2nd Preference categories, if any).

4th Preference – Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (65,000 annually, plus unused visas from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Preference categories, if any).