Becoming A Permanent Resident – U.S. Immigration

Who 
May Become A Permanent Resident?

A 
person may get permanent residency through political asylum,
 entering as a refugee, a family relationship with a U.S. citizen 
or permanent resident, work skills that are determined to be
in short supply in the U.S., or a special immigrant visa lottery 
for persons from countries where few people come to the U.S.
 Some people in special situations may be able to obtain permanent
 residency because they have been in the U.S. so long and it
would be inhumane to force them to leave.

A
 person may try to obtain the status either from outside the 
U.S. through an “immigrant visa”, or without leaving the U.S..

Some 
laws make it difficult for a person who has been in the U.S. 
illegally to obtain legal status. In addition, the waiting list
 for permanent residency is so long that a person could be required 
to be separated from family members.

Permanent
 ResidencyBased On Family

The 
immigration laws provide for permanent residency for persons 
who have certain designated family relationships with U.S. citizens 
or permanent residents. The relative must petition for the non-citizen.

The
 relationships are very specific and the person must neatly fall
 within one of them. For purposes of determining whether a person 
meets the required family relationship category, there is no 
room for discretion on the part of the INS officer.

This
 area can be very complex, and you should see an experienced
 immigration lawyer to determine eligibility. But below are some
 general examples.

Examples:

“Immediate
 relatives” of U.S. citizens may be eligible for permanent residency.
 An immediate relative is a person who is a minor (under 21) 
unmarried child, spouse, or parent of an adult (over 21) U.S.
citizen. This category is not restricted in number and has no
 extensive waiting list in order to get permanent residency.

Others 
who may seek permanent residency are spouses and unmarried children
 of permanent residents, married and adult children and siblings
 of U.S. citizens. Persons under this last category must wait
sometimes for extensive periods before being able to obtain
 residency status.

Where 
the claimed relationship is a brother-sister relation, the two
 may be half-siblings (sharing a common parent). Where the claimed
 relationship is that of parent-child, a person may be adopted,
legitimated, or a stepchild.

Where 
the category allows for a person to be married (or single with
 children), only the person with the relation to the U.S. citizen
or resident needs to qualify. This means that a married child
of U.S. citizen is able to bring his entire family. Similarly, 
only one head of the household needs to establish qualification
 under the employment preference in order to bring over spouse 
and children. These rules support one of the main goals the 
immigration laws: family unification.

Permanent
 Residency Based On Employment

In 
most situations, the person must have a prospective employer 
willing to act as a sponsor for residency. Once the person has
 established the proper employment relationship, the next step 
will be to get on a waiting list in order to get an immigrant
visa or go through adjustment of status to permanent residence.

Because
 one of the main objectives of immigration law is protecting 
U.S. workers, usually these positions require a certification 
from the Secretary of Labor that there are no ready, willing, 
able and qualified U.S. workers for the position, and that the
 compensation and position offered will not adversely affect 
the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers. Certain categories
 of foreign workers are given preference.

This 
field is very complex and often changes, so it is highly advisable 
to get an experienced immigration attorney to help you through 
this process.

Permanent
 Residency Through Immigration Lottery

Some 
immigrants may be eligible to immigrate through what is known
as the “diversity” lottery -.a program designed to admit approximately 
55,000 people per year from countries whose citizens have not
been coming to the U.S. in large numbers.

The
 world is broken up into regions and countries based upon their 
immigration numbers. Persons submit their names with identifying 
information of name, date and place of birth, country of nationality,
information on their spouse and children, current mailing address, 
photos, and the location of the nearest consular office (where 
they will process their applications).

The
 lottery is conducted once a year (usually during the Fall).
 The selection is purely random.

A
person notified of qualification must establish that she has
at least a high school diploma or its equivalent and at least 
2 years of work experience within the last 5 years, in an occupation
 that requires at least 2 years of training.

Procedural Requirements

A
 person may obtain permanent residency by making an application from the home country, waiting to be processed for an immigrant
 visa, and then coming to the U.S., or by coming initially as 
a nonimmigrant and then trying to become a permanent resident. 
This second application process is much more complicated and
 requires expert assistance to make sure that no misrepresentations
 or other errors are committed that would make it difficult to
 later obtain residency.

Losing permanent Residency

A
 person may put permanent resident status in jeopardy by committing
 criminal acts, by falling into one of the categories of inadmissibility 
and then traveling outside of the U.S. for more than 180 days,
or by falling into one or more of the categories of  “deportable”
 persons.

One
 cannot lose the status without an opportunity of a hearing before 
an immigration judge. Permanent residency cannot be taken away 
casually by an immigration officer refusing to allow admission 
into the country or by a Consular officer taking away a person’s
 proof of permanent residency (green card). If this should happen,
 see a lawyer who specializes in immigration law immediately.

Juveniles

A 
 unmarried minor (under 21) may obtain permanent residency if 
he or she is eligible for long-term foster care or has been
 placed in the custody of a state agency or department, where 
it would not be in the child’s best interest to return to the 
home country.

Abused 
Spouses And Children

Persons
 who are married or the children of permanent residents and U.S.
 citizens and become the subjects of abuse or extreme cruelty 
by the spouse or parent may in some situations become permanent 
residents. The person must also have been present in the U.S.
 for 3 years and be of good moral character, and removal would 
cause extreme hardship.

Long-Time Illegal Residents

Over 
the years, Congress has enacted so called “amnesty” laws that 
allow persons who were in the U.S. as of a specified date to 
be granted permanent residency after following an application 
process.

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