Paths to U.S. Permanent Resident Status

It is the wish of many to make the U.S. a permanent home. One of the very first steps to do this is to become a lawful permanent resident. Lawful permanent residents are also commonly referred to as green card holders as a green card is issued to those who achieve lawful permanent resident status. A lawful permanent resident is permitted to stay in the U.S. indefinitely as long as they are not convicted of any crimes or any other violation that would be considered a removable offense. Lawful permanent residents are also permitted to eventually go on to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Achieving lawful permanent resident status, however, can be challenging. There are certain paths that a person may be able to take to achieve this status, but the available paths will depend on a number of different factors. Let’s take a look at some of the paths that an individual can take to become a U.S. permanent resident.

Paths to U.S. Permanent Resident Status

There are a number of different paths a person may take to become a permanent resident in the U.S. The U.S. Department of State offers a diversity lottery program as a path to permanent residency. Those individuals who are married to a U.S. citizen may apply to become a lawful permanent resident as can those who are sponsored by a close relative who is either a lawful permanent resident or a citizen. Sponsorship by an employer is also a common path to permanent residency.

One of the most commonly used paths to U.S. permanent resident status is through an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. For this pathway’s purposes, an immediate relative is considered to be:

  • The spouse or recent widow or widower of a U.S. citizen;
  • Unmarried children under the age of 21, stepchildren, and stepparents of U.S. citizens (the marriage must have occurred prior to the child turning 18); and
  • Adopted children of U.S. citizens (as long as the child was adopted prior to age 16).

One of the other most commonly used paths to U.S. permanent resident status is the pursuit of an employment-based green card. This green card application system has five different preference categories that range from EB-1 to EB-5. There are also multiple sub-categories in most preference categories. Often, a job offer will be required prior to starting pathway to permanent residence, although this is not the case for some of the preference categories. Also, the employer will need to begin the petition process and will need to play an active role in the process as well.

Each path will have different requirements and different timelines. For instance, there are only a limited number of employment-based green cards available at any given time and it can take years to go through the process. It can also depend on the country of birth of the green card applicant.

Immigration Law Attorneys

If you have any questions about how the immigration and nationality laws in the United States may impact you or your family, or if you want to access additional information about United States or Canadian immigration and nationality laws, please feel free to get in touch with the immigration and nationality lawyers at Nachman, Phulwani, Zimovcak (NPZ) Law Group, P.C. You can send us an email at or you can call us at 201-670-0006 extension 104. In addition, we invite you to find more information on our website at