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Becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)


If you are not a U.S. citizen or a Green Card holder, then under U.S. immigration, you are a non-immigrant alien. Non-immigrants can be in the U.S. only temporarily and expected to leave by the time their temporary permission is over.

You can get into the U.S. as a non-immigrant by getting a visa

The common visas that most people get to arrive in the United States are tourist or visitor visa, and student visa. But there is an alphabet soup of visas. If you are a U.S. citizen interested in getting married to a fiancé but would want to have your marriage ceremony in the United States, you and your fiancé may apply for a K1 visa at the U.S. embassy in the country where your fiancé lives. If you get the K1 visa, you must get married in the U.S. within 90 days of your fiancé’s arrival. If you don’t get married, the K1 visa will lapse and your fiancé will be out of status and may become deportable.

There are so many legal avenues that you may change your status from a temporary non-immigrant alien into a Lawful Permanent Resident or a Green Card holder. If you intend to become a U.S. citizen, and you are currently in the U.S. on a non-immigrant alien visa, you need to first become a Green Card holder and meet certain citizenship requirements before you may naturalize.

What happens when you become a Green Card holder?

  1. You get to live and work permanently in the U.S.
  2. You may travel in and out of the U.S., although with some restrictions which do not apply to citizens.
  3. You can also be denied return to the U.S. if you have committed certain crimes.
  4. You can help other family members to immigrate to the U.S. by filing an I-130 petition for those family members. However, you are limited as a Green Card holder to filing for your spouse, unmarried sons and daughters only). You get to apply for citizenship after some years as a permanent resident.

How do you get a Green Card?

There are several paths you can take to get a Green Card legally. Your employer may sponsor you. You may get it as a refugee or asylee (i.e., a person who applies for asylum). You may also get a Green Card if you are a lucky winner in the Diversity Lottery run by the State Department every year. There are 10,000 visas given every year to get individuals from nationalities that are under-represented in the United States. It takes place every October.

But for the majority of people, getting a Green Card is through a family member. If you are looking to get into the U.S this way, then you must either have a family member who is a Lawful Permanent Resident (i.e., a Green Card holder), or U.S. citizen. There are restrictions and serious hurdles you must overcome even if you have the right family relationship.

A Green Card holder or a U.S. citizen can file a visa petition on behalf of certain close family members. The family member is considered a beneficiary of the immigrant visa petition. The immigrant beneficiary must fill out the ubiquitous I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, which must be filed with the United States Citizenship and Naturalization Service (USCIS). USCIS is an agency of the Department of Homeland Security. When the I-130 is approved, you will receive a notice which allows your relative to adjust their status and become a permanent legal resident.

A U.S. citizen may file I-130 for:

  1. Husband or Wife (i.e., a spouse. Polygamous marriages are not recognized under U.S. immigration law)
  2. Children. The process is different between children who are married, and those not married.Married children will end up in a long visa waiting queue until a visa becomes current per the visa bulletin.
  3. Parents. Parents are immediate relatives. If they meet certain basic requirements, their process is not as complicated. The key is establishing the parent-child relationship with a valid birth certificate, or DNA test if necessary.
  4. Siblings. Siblings must wait in line for a visa to be available. They tend to wait a long time. Check the visa bulletin and speak with an immigration attorney if you are considering filing for a sibling before you do. If there are better alternate qualified relatives, like a child over 18 years old, or a spouse, a sibling will move in priority as an immediate relative if either a spouse, a child or parent petitions them instead of their sibling.

A Green Card holder may file I-130 for:

  1. Husband or Wife
  2. Unmarried children

As you can tell, there is no room for friends, just family.

The family member beneficiary of an I-130 petition may adjust their status in the United States. If they live outside of the United States at the time the I-130 is approved, they must go through a consular process to get a visa for admission into the U.S.

If they are in the U.S., they may be able to file I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status. Even if for some reason, you are in the United States when your I-130 for your benefit is approved, you may be able to adjust your status in the United States. If it is important that you understand the process clearly before you file. And if you have already filed, you may need to speak with an immigration attorney about the full consequences of your situation.

The I-485 must be processed through USCIS. The consular process to get a visa at the U.S. Embassy in the country where the beneficiary lives, goes through the National Visa Center, which is located in New Hampshire. No matter how the beneficiary processes the actual admission into immigrant status, several requirements must be met, including:

  1. Demonstrate they have the relationship claimed in the I-130 petition. Spouses may have to overcome concerns that their marriage is a sham, fraudulent and meant only to get immigration benefits. Parents and children may have to get DNA, paternity or other tests to prove their biological relationships. Siblings too may have to prove their relationship.
  2. Meet physical and mental health requirements. This means getting up-to-date vaccinations, not having communicable or sexually transmittable disease.
  3. Complete criminal background checks. The beneficiary should not have any criminal records. Terrorists, persecutors, war criminals, and similar persons cannot immigrate to the U.S. and will be denied.
  4. Show good moral character. The beneficiary should not have lied or misrepresented material facts to gain some immigration benefits. If for example, your beneficiary has applied for a U.S. tourist visa in the past, be sure to discuss what information may have been provided to the U.S. Embassy.

    Remember, all information you provide to the U.S. Embassy, any of the Homeland Security Agencies like USCIS, follows you and your beneficiaries for life. This includes the information you provided to customs and border patrol (CBP). If any statement you or your beneficiary may have provided is deemed false or misrepresenting material facts, that can end your immigration process. However, even when there is fraud found, you may be entitled to certain waivers. You should discuss your specific situation with an immigration attorney.

  5. Public charge. You file an I-864 Affidavit of Support, by which you show that you can support the beneficiary. You must meet certain income and asset requirements under the poverty guidelines (i.e., your income must meet 125% of poverty guideline).

    If you don’t have adequate income, you may get a joint sponsor to submit another I-864 Affidavit of Support with you to meet the requirement. Otherwise, the U.S. will take it your beneficiary relative will become a “public charge.” It means, they will become an economic burden on the American taxpayer, and they will not be allowed to immigrate.

  6. Other Factors. There are other important factors to be aware of to successfully get your relative here after an I-130 has been approved. Remember, granting of the I-130 does not mean your relative is getting into the United States. There are many more important steps to complete the immigration process.

If you have questions, call us for an immediate consult. (860) 218-2122