Permanent Residence through Family
A permanent resident or “green card holder” is someone who has been granted authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. As proof of that status, a person is granted a permanent resident card, commonly called a “green card.” Certain individuals may qualify for permanent residence through sponsorship by a family member already living in the United States.
Permanent Residence for a Family Member of a U.S. Citizen
A U.S. citizen may petition for an immediate relative to immigrate to the United States. Regulations define “immediate relatives” of a U.S. citizen as spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents. If the family member of the U.S. citizen seeking to immigrate is not an immediate relative, then the U.S. citizen may still be able to sponsor him or her according to the family preference category. Eligible relatives include:
- Unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21;
- Married child(ren) of any age; and
- Brothers and sisters (if the U.S. citizen petitioner is over the age of 21).
- Once approved as a permanent resident of the United States, the beneficiary has the authority to live and work in the United States permanently. The beneficiary should receive a permanent residency card within 45 days of arrival.
Permanent Residence for a Family Member of a Permanent Resident
A permanent resident may petition for his or her spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to immigrate to the United States. There is generally a waiting period before an immigrant visa number becomes available in this category.
Naturalization & Citizenship
Naturalization is the process that grants U.S. citizenship to a foreign citizen or national. To qualify for this process, applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Be 18 or older at the time of filing;
- Be a green card holder for at least 5 years (or at least 3 years if married to the same U.S. citizen during the entire time) immediately preceding the date of filing;
- Lived in a state, or qualifying location, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing;
- Established continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years (or at least 3 years if married to U.S. citizen) immediately preceding the date of filing; and
- Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years (or 18 months out of the 3 years if married to U.S. citizen) immediately preceding the date of filing.
Additionally, the applicant must read, write, and speak English (certain applicants may qualify for a limited exception) and have knowledge and an understanding of United States history and government. Lastly, all applicants must be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the United States Constitution, and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law.
Derivative citizenship is conveyed to children through the naturalization of parents or, under certain circumstances, to foreign-born children adopted by U.S. citizen parents. Derivative citizenship occurs automatically. Therefore, it is not legally necessary to obtain documentation proving the child’s U.S. citizenship. However, it is best to obtain official documentation such as a U.S. passport or Certificate of Citizenship, as soon as possible.
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