Featured News 2016 What is a Permanent Resident Under U.S. Law?

What is a Permanent Resident Under U.S. Law?

If you, or someone you love is interested in coming to the United States to live and work, or possibly become a United States citizen, you will soon learn about what it is to be a "permanent resident" under U.S. immigration law.

What exactly is a permanent resident? According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a permanent resident is a non-U.S. citizen who is living in the U.S. legally and recognized for having permanent residence. Permanent residents go by more than one name, they are also called:

  • Permanent resident aliens
  • Lawful permanent residents
  • Resident alien permit holders
  • Green card holders

While permanent residents go by any of the above names, they are also commonly referred to as "immigrants," however, an illegal alien is not the same as a permanent resident.

An illegal alien is an immigrant who enters the United States illegally, or without inspection. An illegal alien is NOT a permanent resident or a lawful permanent resident, nor is an illegal alien a green card holder.

Under U.S. immigration law, a "lawful permanent resident" has been given the legal opportunity and privilege to live permanently in the United States. This means that the individual can work in the U.S., pay state and federal taxes, be entitled to Social Security benefits, and obtain a state-issued driver's license among other things.

Obtaining Permanent Resident Status

In order to become a green card holder (permanent resident), immigrants must obtain their green card either through family, a job, through refugee or asylee status, or through another way provided under U.S. immigration law (e.g. battered spouse, widow or widower of a U.S. citizen, Cuban native, or the Green Card Lottery etc.).

If you wish to obtain a green card, the method will depend on various factors, such as whether you're trying to be referred by a close family member or by a future employer. For example, you may be able to get a green card through one of your family members, such as an immediate relative who is already a U.S. citizen or by a U.S. citizen spouse.

To learn more about permanent resident status, scroll through our attorney directory to find an immigration lawyer near you!

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