The Form I-551, also popularly known as the green card or the permanent resident card, is issued to all lawful permanent residents of the United States. This serves as a U.S. immigrant’s proof of his/her eligibility to reside and work in any U.S. state. The green card is valid for 10 years for a permanent resident or two years for a conditional resident. The green card is also used in many legal transactions including the application for a Social Security Card and state-issued identification card or driver’s license. It is also required when seeking readmission to the United States after a short trip abroad.
Those who want to become U.S. immigrants, technically referred to as permanent residents of the United States, can apply for green cards through their U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident family members, job offers or employment in U.S. companies, or special categories as stipulated by the law. Availability of immigrant visas is generally based on a preference system.
A U.S. citizen or a U.S. permanent resident can petition his/her relatives to immigrate to the United States. In general, immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen are given the highest immigration priority. Immediate relatives include: parents, spouse, and unmarried children under the age of 21. The U.S. citizen petitioning any relative must be at least 21 years old.
Immediate relatives don’t have to wait for visas to become available because there is no limit to the number of visas provided under this family-based category. Other qualified relatives of a U.S. citizen in other family-based categories must wait for the availability of visas before applying for permanent residency. All qualified relatives of U.S. permanent residents must wait for a certain period of time for visas to become available for them.
Qualified family members of U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents who are required to wait for visa availability should be under any of the following family-based categories: First preference (U.S. citizen’s unmarried son or daughter who is 21 years of age or older); Second Preference A (U.S. permanent resident’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21); Second Preference B (U.S. permanent resident’s unmarried son or daughter who is 21 years of age or older); Third Preference (U.S. citizen’s married sons and daughters, their spouses, and their minor children); and Fourth Preference (U.S. citizens’ brother or sister, their spouses, and their minor children).
“Green Card Through Family,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“Visa Availability & Priority Dates,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
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