WHAT ARE GREEN CARDS? (LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENCY)
FAMILY-BASED GREEN CARDS
U.S. immigration law allows certain foreign nationals who are family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to become lawful permanent residents (obtain Green Cards) based on specific family relationships.
Lawful permanent residents (LPRs), also known as “green card” holders, are non-citizens who are lawfully authorized to live permanently within the United States. LPRs may accept an offer of employment without special restrictions, own property, receive financial assistance at public colleges and universities, and join the Armed Forces. Further, LPRs may apply to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain eligibility requirements.
WHO ARE GREEN CARDS FOR?
Family members eligible to apply for a Green Card are described in the following family “preference immigrant” categories:
- Immediate relatives (IR) – spouses, minor children and parents of U.S. citizens;
- First preference (F1) – unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years of age and older, of U.S. citizens;
- Second preference (F2A) – spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents;
- Second preference (F2B) – unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years of age and older, of lawful permanent residents;
- Third preference (F3) – married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; and
- Fourth preference (F4) – brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age and older).
Immigrant petitions can be filed by U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents whose relatives are in one of the categories listed above, with the USCIS. Once approved, beneficiaries of these petitions may apply for Green Cards in the United States or immigrant visas at a U.S. Consulate abroad. The IR category has no numerical limitation. The others are often subject to numerical limitation wait times which are updated monthly by the U.S. Department of State.
U.S. immigration law provides several broad classes of admission for foreign nationals to gain LPR status, the largest of which focuses on admitting immigrants for the purpose of family reunification. Other major categories include business and humanitarian immigrants, as well as immigrants from countries with relatively low levels of immigration to the United States.