How to Become a U.S. Resident


Lawful Permanent Residency also known as “Green Cards”

There are several ways to obtain your permanent residency, or green card in the U.S. A few of these are:



*Special Immigrant

*Refugee or asylee status

*Human trafficking or crime victims

*Victims of abuse

*Other categories

With a permanent residency card, or green card you may:

*Live permanently in the United States, if you do not commit any actions that would make you removable (deportable) under immigration laws

*Legally work in the United States

*Be protected by the laws of the United States, your state of residence and local jurisdiction

With your permanent residency, or green card you have the responsibility to:

*Obey the laws of the United States and localities

*File your income tax returns

*Support the democratic form of government

*Register with the Selective Service if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 25


A petition establishes the underlying basis for your ability to immigrate and determines your immigrant classification or category. Some categories of immigrants may be able to self-petition. Most people immigrating based on humanitarian programs are exempt from the petition requirement.

Initial Requirement for Permanent Residency also known as Green Card

An employer, relative, or in special cases the applicant files one of the following two petitions on behalf of the beneficiary.

  • Employment Based Petition (i-140)
  • Family Based Petition (i-130)

Paths to Legal Permanent Residency

Adjustment of Status:

For people living within the United States, visas are usually issued through the Adjustment of Status process. During Adjustment of Status processing, a qualified applicant becomes a lawful permanent resident without having to travel abroad and apply for an immigrant visa at their home consulate. Failure to maintain lawful status, incorrectly filed applications, can result in rejection or trigger deportation or removal proceedings.

Consular Processing:

For people living outside of the United States, visas are issued through consular processing. The beneficiary that lives abroad must apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate abroad, generally in their home country. During consular processing, once the petition is approved, the USCIS works with the Department of State to issue a visa when a visa is available under the visa bulletin.

Things to Keep In Mind

Green cards do not provide citizenship status, only permanent residency status. After receiving the permanent resident status, many restrictions and responsibilities must be adhered to avoid losing the green card status, removal, or deportation.

Green cards can be revoked for many reasons including crimes committed, fraud, abandonment of permanent residence, and voting as a U.S. citizen and you may also be subject to removal and deportation proceedings.

For the most part, green cards are temporary and issued for a 10-year period. After that time, the green card holder is usually able to apply for U.S. citizenship after 5 years of continuous permanent residency.

While green card holders can travel outside of the United States, any time abroad that lasts over 6 months may disrupt the continuous residency and physical presence requirement for citizenship. Additionally, anything over 1 year may require a re-entry permit.

Green card holders are responsible for filing and paying federal, state, and local taxes just as U.S. citizens are required to pay taxes.