If you are a foreign national and seek to reside in the United States on a permanent basis, you will need to petition for a permanent resident visa, also commonly referred to as a green card, through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.   As a lawful permanent resident (LPR), you can enjoy many of the same benefits and freedoms as U.S. citizens, including the right to work in the United States, and you are able to petition for close family members (spouses and unmarried children) to also receive permanent residence. However, due to the fact that a permanent resident remains a citizen of another country, every time you travel outside of the United States, certain procedural requirements must be complied with in order to ensure your re-entry into the United States as a green card holder.

As a legal permanent resident, you have the right to reside permanently anywhere in the United States, accept employment without special restrictions, own property, join the Armed Forces, receive financial assistance to attend schools and colleges, and obtain certain other government benefits such as social security, supplemental security income and Medicare benefits.  In addition thereto, you may apply to become a U.S. citizen after five years of maintaining continuous residence in the United States.


There are multiple methods in which interested parties can obtain a green card and become a permanent resident. Depending on your specific background or case, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency through one of these methods. The three most common forms of applying for permanent residency in the United States are explained below:

Family-Based Sponsorships

One of the most common and successful routes to obtain a green card is through obtaining the sponsorship of a qualified person such as a spouse, fiancée or family member who is an American citizen or legal permanent resident. The success of a permanent residency application through a family member can widely depend on the closeness of the relationship.

In order to be eligible for this type of process, you will need to be able to prove one of the following:

  • You are the immediate relative of an American citizen.
  • You are the preference relative of an American citizen or green card holder.
  • You are the accompanying relative of a person in a preference category.

Under family-based immigration, the following parties qualify as immediate relatives:

  • Spouses of American citizens,
  • Unmarried children under the age of 21, and
  • Parents of American citizens, when the citizen is over the age of 21

Under family-based immigration, the following parties qualify as preference relatives:

  • Family first preference – unmarried children of any age but presumably over the age of 21
  • Family second preference – spouses or unmarried children under 21 of green card holders or children of green card holders over the age of 21
  • Family third preference – married children of American citizens
  • Family fourth preference – siblings of American citizens over the age of 21

Key features of seeking permanent residency through a family member are:

  • Unlike other types of residency, your work experience and educational background will not make an impact on your eligibility.
  • Your spouse and/or unmarried minor children may also have eligibility for the green card when having accompanying relatives.
  • After five years of permanent residency status, you may be able to apply for United States citizenship.

Employment-Based Immigration

Sponsorship by an employer in the U.S. is possible if you possess an exceptional ability in your professional field that is not commonly found in the general work population; or an inquiry based on your investments in the U.S. workplace that will have the effect of creating at least 10 full-time positions for qualifying employees. This is further explained through three categories: first preference, second preference, or third preference.

United States immigration laws provide foreign nationals multiple methods of becoming legal residents through employment in the country. These work-based preference immigrant classifications include:

  • First preference or priority workers – Foreign nationals who have great abilities in art, science, business, education, or athletics. They can also be outstanding researchers or professors or be multinational executives or managers.
  • Second preference workers – Foreign nationals that are members of professions that hold advanced degrees and have exceptional abilities in their field.
  • Third preference workers – Foreign nationals that are skilled workers or professionals.

 Asylum or Refugee Status

An application for permanent residency that is based on the protection you obtained in the United States as a result of past and future persecution experienced in your home country on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.


Generally, the first step in a successful permanent residency inquiry is for you to obtain an immigrant visa. Secondly, you will need to petition for a green card by completing the I-485 Form, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Depending on your eligibility, the 18-page document will need to be filed in one of several locations.

The application does have filing fees. Presently, the following fees apply:

  • Applicants under the age of 14 and filing the I-485 with a parent will need to pay a $750 form fee.
  • Applicants under the age of 14 not filing an I-485 application with one parent will need to pay a $1,140 form fee.
  • Applicants between the ages of 14 and 78 years will have a form fee of $1,140 with a biometric services fee of $85.
  • Applicants over the age of 79 will have a form fee of $1,140.

Currently, there are no fees when filing an I-485 based on being admitted to the U.S. as a refugee. Any subsequent steps in the application process will depend entirely on whether you are in the United States or not. If you are overseas at the time of filing out the application, applying for permanent residency will be referred to as consular processing. If you are on U.S. soil at the time of applying, the process will be referred to as an adjustment of status. For the most part, a consular processing will advance much quicker than an adjustment of status.

If you or someone you know are a foreign national interested in an adjustment of status while in the United States, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services states you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • You will need to complete the I-485 Form in its entirety,
  • You will need to go through inspection or admittance and paroled in the U.S,
  • Will need to be physically in the country when completing the I-485 Form,
  • Will need to be eligible to receive an immigrant visa, and
  • None of the applicable disqualifying bars affect you

Moreover, depending on the case, you may need to undergo a criminal background check and attend a hearing.

To Obtain Permanent Residency Status in the United States, Obtain Proficient Legal Representation from a Law Firm You Can Trust

As an immigrant in the U.S., it is common to feel overwhelmed with the challenges and issues that arise from not having a permanent residency status. It is also understandable that the thought of filing for a green card is stressful because of the complexity of the matter. It is important to recognize, however, that obtaining a permanent residency status offers many benefits that should not be overlooked. Equally important, having a permanent residency status can offer you the peace of mind you need to build your life in America.

As previously mentioned, filing for a green card is a multifaceted process and it is important that you understand what is needed in an application prior to starting the process. This will not only make the application process easier for you but it can also expedite the process. Being prepared is the first essential step to a successful application, and it is highly recommended that prior to filing for legal permanent resident status, you also meet with an attorney to discuss the options that are best suited for your circumstances.

Moreover, there are a number of things that can disqualify you from becoming a permanent resident, and an attorney can help you determine whether or not you qualify for a green card, as well as assist in preparing the necessary forms and documents so as to minimize and/or eliminate any complications that may arise throughout the application process. Hiring a knowledgeable and experienced immigration law attorney can save you time and money throughout the entire process.

At the King Immigration Law Group, our skills, resources, and knowledge are dedicated solely to the practice of immigration law. Our office is highly knowledgeable about how the U.S green card processes works, and we are able to offer focused services to clients concerned with nationality throughout the country. We understand how difficult it can be living with constant pressure and uncertainty; if you are interested in speaking with an attorney about becoming a legal permanent resident and obtaining a green card, please call Attorney Oliver King.  Contact us today for more information.