Immigrating to the U.S.: Becoming a permanent resident

People who wish to permanently live and work in California, as well as be afforded other rights, may seek to obtain permanent legal residency.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reports 1,016,518 people were granted legal permanent residency in 2014. For some, this is an opportunity to be with their families and for others, it is an important step towards their futures. However, there are requirements and responsibilities that come with the rights afforded to those who are granted this status. Therefore, it is important for people who are considering immigrating for good to California or elsewhere in the U.S. to have an understanding of green cards and what it means to be a holder.

When people wish to live and work in the U.S. permanently may seek permanent legal residency. If they obtain this status, they receive a permanent resident card, widely referred to as a green card, to serve as proof. Those who want to become naturalized citizens must have this status.

Who is eligible?

Legal permanent residency is not an option for everyone. In fact, in order to receive a green card, people must meet specific requirements, including the following:

· Be eligible for admission into America

· Have immediate access to an immigration visa

· Have filed a qualified immigration petition and received an approval

Additionally, those seeking this status must meet the eligibility requirements for one of the Immigration and Nationality Act's immigrant categories.

Paths to a green card

Those seeking a green card may apply for an adjustment of status if they are already in the U.S. If they have not yet moved to the country, they may apply for consular processing. With few exceptions, those who wish to obtain legal permanent residency must file their petitions with sponsorship from a family member who is a U.S. citizen, an employer or a potential employer. People may also become permanent residents based on their asylum or refugee status, or through other provisional methods and programs.

Responsibilities as a permanent resident

Being granted a green card does not come with no strings attached. As legal permanent residents, people are required to file state and federal taxes; to obey the local, state and federal laws; and to register with the Selective Service if they are males between the ages of 18 and 25-years-old. Additionally, green card holders must pledge to support the democracy, and to refrain from committing any removable actions or engaging in illegal activities to try to change the U.S. government.

Rights of green card holders

Once people receive a green card, they are permitted to move to the U.S. to permanently reside. Further, legal permanent residents are protected by the local, state and federal laws, just as are U.S. citizens. As green card holders, people are allowed to obtain any type of legal employment they choose.

Planning for the future

Even with their petitions and sponsorships in order, the process of obtaining a green card is not always straightforward for people who want to permanently immigrate to California. Therefore, those who are considering this step may find it helpful to obtain legal counsel. An attorney may help make certain they meet the petition and filing requirements, as well as help them navigate the other related legalities.