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Preserving family bonds is one of the guiding principles of U.S. immigration policy. For this reason, legal immigrants may be able to petition for visas or Green Cards that allow family members to reside in the states legally.

Immigrants who already have citizen status may sponsor an immediate relative, such as a spouse/fiancé, child or parent. However, extended relatives may also be able to come to the U.S. under the family preference system.

Immediate relatives

Parents, spouses and children (under age 21) of U.S. citizens have the highest preference for gaining legal permanent residency. However, to petition for a parent, the citizen applying must be at least age 21.


In the majority of cases, green cards are valid for 10 years before you must renew the document. However, there are some specific instances where you or a loved one may have what the U.S. government calls “conditional permanent residency.”

Conditional permanent residents have the same rights as a regular permanent resident. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, persons who hold conditional permanent residencemust petition to removethe conditions.

Why does conditional permanent residency exist?

The majority of conditional permanent residents in the United States are spouses of U.S. citizens. If you have the rights to live in the U.S. through marriage, your first green card will be temporary. You will be eligible for permanent residency after the first two years.


Refugees are people that have been displaced from their countries of origin out of fear for their personal safety. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, refugees must seek out their Green Cards after being in the country for one year.

The process for seeking your Green Card as a refugee is complex. There are a lot of factors to consider, including the following. Having the right information ensures you are prepared and have the best chance of being approved for your Green Card.

How to determine eligibility

Green Cards render you a lawful permanent resident of this country. To be eligible, you must meet certain criteria. Along with being in the country for at least one year, you must also not have previously received a Green Card. Additionally, you must not have had a previous admission terminated, and you must be present in the country when you are filing the Green Card form, which is Form I-485.


A green card is a document that grants you lawful permanent residence status in the United States. It gives you the right to live here on an ongoing basis. It also gives you the authorization you need to find and keep a job in the U.S.

There are several different categories of green cards. Based on your situation, there are also different processes involved in obtaining them. The process you go through depends partly on whether you are already in the United States or if you wish to come to the U.S. but are currently still in your own country.

Adjustment of status

If you are already present in the United States, you may be able to obtain a green card through an adjustment of status. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, this saves you the inconvenience of having to return to your home country to complete the processing of your visa. However, you have to meet the eligibility requirements. Adjustment of status may be available to you if you belong to a certain immigration category, such as an international student or a temporary visitor.


Green cards provide cardholders with a range of helpful benefits while they await naturalization and continue the process of working toward citizenship in the United States. A person’s application risks denial depending on his or her circumstances and the evidence they submit with their application.

People who receive correspondence notifying them of the denial of their application, have the right to file an appeal to dispute the decision.

Reopen vs. reconsider

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