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Permanent Residency

General Information on Obtaining Permanent Residential Status in the US (“Greencard”)

What is permanent resident status?

There are a few terms used to describe the permanent resident status. The most common term is “greencard,” which has not really been green-colored for many years. Other terms include a permanent visa, lawful permanent residence, resident alien and immigration to the US. The permanent resident status is a type of visa status granted to a foreign national who has the privilege of living and working permanently in the United States.

How do I become a permanent resident?

The short answer to this complex question is that there are five ways to immigrate to the US. Most of these categories for immigration have yearly numerical limits, or quotas. The overall yearly limit is about 700,000. But immediate relatives (spouses and minor children of US citizens, parents of adult US citizens) have no quota.

The first route is through the petition of a close relative – spouse, child over 21, parent, brother or sister who is a citizen of the US; or spouse or parent who is a US permanent resident. (Anyone born in the US is a citizen of the US; permanent residents can become citizens through naturalization, after a required period of residence in the US.) Some of these routes to permanent residence are severely backlogged, however, depending on the type of relative and the nationality of the applicant. The brother or sister of a US citizen could have a wait of many years, depending on their nationality. For more information through this route, visit USCIS web site.

The second way to get a green card is through an employer. An employer can petition for an extraordinary employee, an outstanding professor or researcher, a multinational executive or manager, a professional holding an advanced degree, or a person of “exceptional ability.” There are also some permanent visas available for certain types of “skilled workers,” professionals with basic degrees, ministers, and religious workers. For more information under this category, visit USCIS web site. For CofC faculty on a non-immigrant status who is interested in obtaining permanent resident status, please visit this web page.

There are three other, less often used, ways to obtain US permanent residence. Investors with $1 million in capital and the ability to employ at least 10 US nationals, have the possibility of getting one of 10,000 visas a year! Permanent residence can also be granted to refugees and people seeking political asylum.

Finally, there is the “lottery”! The purpose of the “diversity immigrants” category is to increase US immigration from countries with low representation over the last few decades. The “winners” were randomly selected from a huge pool of applicants who electronically submitted in simple applications within a specified period. This year, there will be 55,000 slots available per year for people from countries determined to have low immigration, and the eligible applicants will be randomly selected from a huge number of electronically sent requests. For more information and instructions, go to: The Diversity Lottery.