Lawful Permanent Resident is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of permanently living and working in the United States. For someone to become a LPR, they must have a relative who is a citizen of the United States, or have a relative who is a lawful permanent resident, and must go through a multi-step process.
The USCIS must approve an immigrant visa petition. This petition is filed by the relative (sponsor) and must be accompanied by proof of a valid relationship between the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and the relative being sponsored for permanent residence. The Department of State must determine if an immigrant visa number is immediately available to the foreign nation, even if they are already in the United States. When an immigrant visa number is available, it means they can apply to have one of the immigrant visa numbers assigned.
U.S. Citizen may sponsor their parents, spouses or children under age 21 for immigrant visas for permanent residence. This category is known as “immediate relatives,” and there is no limit on how many immigrant visas can be issued.
The following are immediate relatives:
- Spouse of U.S. Citizens:
- Children of U.S. Citizens, if the child is unmarried and under 21; and
- Parents of U.S. Citizens, if the child has attained the age of 21.
U.S. Citizen files a petition to establish the relationship. Then the foreign relative applies for permanent residence at either a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office (in the U.S.) or at an American consulate abroad.
Furthermore, even under the tough new adjustment laws, a United States citizen may petition for his or her immediate relative even if that relative has fallen out of status. The immediate relative must have entered the United States legally however.
If an individual is not an immediate relative, then the individual must be in one of the specified family relationships to immigrate. Not all family relationships serve as a basis to immigrate. The following are other relative who are allowed to immigrate:
- Fist preference (FB-1): Unmarried adult (over 21) sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;
- Second preference (FB-2A and FB-2B): Spouses and unmarried minor (under 21) children of permanent residents
- Third preference (FB-3): Married adult (over 21) sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; and
- Fourth preference (FB-4): Brothers or sisters of U.S. citizens.
If the number of applicants exceeds the number of immigrant visas available under a particular category, that category is considered oversubscribed. As a result, the applications will be processed and visas issued in
the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the numerical cap has been reached. The filing date of the petition is called the applicant’s “priority date”. An immigrant visa cannot be issued until the priority date is reached. This means that there may be a lengthy waiting period. Sometimes that period may exceed several years. These waits are unpredictable, and can change from month to month, since the waiting line depends upon the number of people with earlier priority dates on their approved application who actually complete the process when the time comes that the visa is available.
If their priority date is current, then the foreign relative applies for permanent residence at either a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office (in the U.S.) or at an American consulate abroad.