Permanent Residency

Permanent Residency (Green Card)

Permanent residency allows you to reside indefinitely in the US, and to work for the employer of your choice. Many individuals refer to permanent residents as “green card holders” as the permanent resident card used to be green. Permanent residents can still be removed (deported) from the US if they violate immigration law.  There are many different pathways to permanent residency:


Family-Based Petitions

This petition allows US citizens and green card holders to establish their relationship with their  relatives who wish to immigrate to the US. After the petition is approved and a visa number becomes available the relative can apply for permanent residency by either filing the Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status with USCIS, or applying for a permanent resident visa at the appropriate Consulate.


Marriage Petition

A US citizen husband and wife (or husband and husband or wife and wife—same-sex marriages are recognized under US federal law) can establish their relationship by demonstrating:

  • A legally valid marriage. Generally, if a marriage is valid where it is performed, it is considered valid for immigration purposes
  • The marriage was not entered into for the purposes of evading immigration laws.

USCIS will consider a marriage valid for immigration purposes if at the beginning of the relationship the couple intended in good faith to build a life together. USCIS tries to establish a couple’s state of mind by holding a (sometimes extensive) interview and reviewing documents such as bank statements and tax returns. If USCIS is not satisfied with the evidence of “good faith” marriage it may request additional evidence or deny the marriage petition. It may also approve the petition, conduct an investigation, and then later on revoke the marriage petition if it finds that there was marriage fraud.

It is advisable that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney before you file your marriage petition, rather than at the point that USCIS is requesting additional evidence or indicating that it will deny the petition. Attorney Rachel Benedict can prepare your application forms and review them for accuracy and completeness, advise you on the types of documents to submit to demonstrate a good faith marriage, prepare you for the interview, and represent you at the interview. As Benjamin Franklin said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure,” and a well-prepared marriage petition can help you to avoid many headaches in the future, such as an USCIS investigation into marriage fraud or deportation proceedings.


Immediate Relatives, or parents, children, or spouses of US citizens are immediately eligible to apply for permanent residency. Generally, other relatives must wait anywhere from 1-24 years depending on the family relationship and the country of origin. See for current wait times.


Employment-Based Petitions

An immigrant can also obtain permanent residency through employment. Most categories of employment-based petitions require an employer to petition for a beneficiary. This is a several step process:

  1. First, the employer must have a qualifying position available for the beneficiary (employee).
  2. Next, the employer obtains a prevailing wage from the Department of Labor (DOL). The prevailing wage is the wage that the DOL determines must be paid for a particular position in a particular geographic area.
  3. Then, the employer generally must conduct recruitment to determine whether there are any qualified, available, and willing American workers available to perform this position. If there are no such workers the employer must file a labor certification with the DOL certifying this fact. This process is called PERM.
  4. Once the labor certification is approved, the employer can file the visa petition with USCIS.  
  5.  Once the visa petition is approved and a visa is available for the beneficiary, she can apply for permanent residency.  

In certain circumstances an employee can petition for herself, such as through the National Interest Waiver or extraordinary ability categories. In other circumstances PERM is not necessary.


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