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People's Law Guide


Getting a Green Card

Suzanne Vazquez


Let's face it. We live in one of the best, if not the best country in the world. It shouldn't come as a surprise that people from all over the world want to live here too! This is especially true because many Americans can trace their family tree to the relative(s) that immigrated here not so long ago.

Individuals who are citizens of other countries wishing to reside permanently in the United States often seek Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) Status. LPR status, also referred to as having a "green card"* can be obtained in a number of ways. The most common way individuals obtain lawful permanent resident status is via a family member immigrant petition. However, a current or potential employer may also serve as a "sponsor" for permanent residence. (Incidentally, an employer may also be able to sponsor an individual for temporary permission to live and work in the United States). Lawful permanent residence may also be gained through asylum, Acts of Congress, i.e., the Cuban Adjustment Act, million dollar investments, and other avenues.

Individuals who marry U.S. Citizens may immediately apply for lawful permanent residence status whereas some other family members may have to wait a number of years before a visa becomes available. This is because United States immigration is based on a preference category system and depending on where the sponsored "alien" (unfortunate legal term for non- U.S. citizen) fits in to the system determines the waiting period to apply for permanent residence. Sometimes individuals seeking permanent resident status in the United States may have more than one visa category available to them.

Certain individuals may not be able to obtain permanent residence or may have to apply for a waiver to do so, because of a criminal background, health or other reason enumerated in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Lawful permanent residence may be applied for either in the United States or at a U.S. Consulate abroad. (In many instances, the applicant does not have to be present in the United States during the LPR application process). Additionally, individuals may be able to choose one method of immigrating over another, for various reasons, including, but not limited to, expedience. LPR status is valid for life as long as U.S. residency is maintained and the LPR does not become removable. U.S. Citizenship may be sought after 3 or 5 years of maintaining LPR status. This depends on the manner in which LPR status is obtained and that other requirements are met, such as physical presence, knowledge and understanding of U.S government/history, and the ability to read and write in the English language with limited exceptions.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- *LPR status is equated with having a "green card" because the alien registration card issued to LPRs used to be green. Even though the card is no longer green, the term has stuck. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Attorney Suzanne Vazquez has been practicing substantially in the area of Immigration and Naturalization law over four years. Prior to opening her law firm in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, she was the Senior Associate Attorney for Business Immigration at Maney & Gordon, P.A. in Tampa, Florida where she successfully managed business immigration cases for small and large companies alike. Suzanne may be reached at 954-763-6756 or via email at .

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