What You Need for Permanent
Residency and Citizenship
There are three ways immigrants may seek to legally remain in the United States:
- A green card (or permanent resident card) is granted to lawful and permanent residents of the United States. There are paths for green card eligibility through family relationships, employment, asylum or refugee status, being a victim of crime or abuse, religious or international workers, those who have resided in the country continuously since prior to January 1, 1972, or other special circumstances.
- Naturalization offers a way for certain people to become U.S. citizens. If you are 18 years of age or older and have been a permanent resident for at least five years, you can apply to become a U.S. citizen. You can also apply if you are 18 or older, have been a permanent resident for three years, and are married to a U.S. citizen.
- Consular processing occurs while living outside the United States. You must apply for immigration via petition. If approved, you will receive an immigration visa number and you may apply for a green card through the U.S. consulate. If you are already in the U.S. and are eligible to apply for a green card, you may be able to do so without returning to your home country by applying for an adjustment in status.
Family Members Petitioning for Legal Status
U.S. citizens may petition for family members to achieve legal status. Visas are always available to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, including their spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents if the petitioning U.S. citizen child is 21 or older.
U.S. citizens may also petition for “preference relatives,” but the availability of these visas is limited to a set number annually. Preference relatives include unmarried adult children ages 21 and older, spouses of green card holders, unmarried children, and adult children of permanent residents, married adult children of U.S. citizens, and siblings of adult U.S. citizens.
U.S. citizens may petition for a green card for any immediate family members. If the immediate family member is already living in the country, they may be eligible to receive an adjustment of status and obtain a green card without needing to leave the U.S. during the processing of the petition.
They may also file a petition for visas for a spouse or fiancé residing outside of the U.S. and their children under the age of 21.
Removal Defense for
People Facing Deportation
Removal defense is legal representation or advocacy for someone facing deportation and appearing before an immigration judge in court.
There are ways cancellation of removal may be granted by the judge, including qualification for an adjustment of status and a green card based on family relationships or if you have resided in the country for 10 years or more.
Asylum is another way to avoid deportation. Asylum offers protection to people who fled persecution in another country. If granted, the grantee may obtain a work permit and later be eligible for a green card and permanent residency.
Individuals who are deported may submit an Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission After Deportation or Removal. If successful, a deportee may receive a waiver that permits them to go through the process of admission to the U.S. legally.
The Importance of Legal Representation
The best chance for success for people who wish to enter the U.S. legally, people without legal status who want to obtain it, and people who want to become U.S. citizens, is to retain the services of experienced immigration attorneys. Language barriers, cultural differences, and the complications of U.S. law and presidential policy make it nearly impossible for residents to obtain the status they want without the help of a lawyer.