We can all agree that when considering moving to another country permanently, what we desire the most is obtaining the status of a permanent resident.
Let’s understand why this type of visa is so valuable and desirable.
This article will answer questions that you might have about the Permanent Resident Visa to the United States and the US Green Card.
Start your journey toward a new life in the USA!
Table of Contents
So, What Is A Permanent Resident Visa?
A US Permanent Resident Visa, also known as an Immigrant Visa, is a document that is placed in the passport of a new immigrant by the American Embassy or Consulate that shows that he or she is a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the United States.
It is referred to as a US Immigrant Visa to distinguish it from a Non-Immigrant US Visa, which is for temporary residents of the United States, such as temporary foreign workers and international students.
The main purpose of a US Permanent Resident Visa is to allow a new immigrant to legally enter the United States after he or she has been granted LPR status, although the final decision is made by the federal border control officials at the port of entry.
After receiving a US Permanent Resident Visa on a page of his or her passport, a new immigrant will pay a fee to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in order to receive a plastic United States Permanent Resident Green Card.
The US Permanent Resident Visa is basically used for a limited period of time (for example, six months) to permit a new immigrant to enter the United States, while the US Permanent Resident Green Card is carried long-term while living in the USA and is used as an official form of identification and proof of LPR status.
People will often speak of the US Permanent Resident Visa and Green Card interchangeably, however, it is helpful to understand the differences between each of these important US immigration documents and the purposes they serve.
The US Permanent Resident Visa and Green Card allow non-citizens to live, study and work permanently in the United States for an unlimited length of time.
They do not grant US citizenship, but do provide many rights and benefits.
To be eligible for a Permanent Resident Visa to the US, one must meet certain qualifications and requirements, such as:
- having a family member who is a US citizen or Green Card holder; OR
- being sponsored by an employer in the US; OR
- having exceptional abilities or talents; OR
- being selected in the Green Card Lottery and passing the consular process.
There are other eligibility requirements that must be satisfied, such as passing a security check, before the US Permanent Resident Visa can be issued.
Types of Permanent Resident Visa
There are several types of US permanent resident visas, the most common of which include:
- Family-Based Visas: These are available to immediate relatives of US citizens, including spouses, children (under 21 years of age) and parents. Family-based visas require that a relative already living in the United States file a petition for the individual wishing to immigrate.
- Employment-Based Visas: These are available for immigrants with work experience or specialized skills who have been offered a job from an employer in the United States. In addition to submitting a completed application, foreign nationals must demonstrate proof of employment and submit documentation regarding their qualifications for the position.
- Diversity Lottery Visas: Also known as green cards, these visas are awarded through an annual lottery program and open to applicants from countries with low rates of immigration. Applicants must meet certain educational or job training requirements and pass security checks before they can receive their visa.
- Asylum/Refugee Visas: These are available to foreign nationals who cannot return safely to their home country due to fear of persecution. Applicants must demonstrate that they have experienced or have a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality or membership in a particular social group.
What are the benefits of being a US Permanent Resident?
The US Permanent Resident Visa and Green Card will grant the applicant various rights within the United States:
- Holders of the Green Card are able to live in the USA indefinitely with generally no time limits; however, they must renew their Green Card every ten years if they wish to remain in the country permanently.
- US Green Card holders can live in any of the 50 States and travel openly between States.
- Additionally, Green Card holders can work in the USA legally.
- If you possess a US Green Card, you can access quality education programs in the United States and apply to receive federal financial aid (for example, to attend a university in the US).
- Furthermore, US Green Card holders may gain eligibility for certain forms of public assistance, such as Social Security benefits. You can arrange to receive a Social Security Number (SSN) and Social Security Card around the time that you receive your Green Card, which will be necessary for you to legally work in the USA.
- As a Permanent Resident of the United States who is at least 18 years of age and meets all the criteria, you can sponsor your eligible family members for a US Green Card.
- US Green Card holders are allowed to buy a home or other property in the United States and can even open their own US business.
- A US Green Card permits a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) to travel to and from the United States (you may need a valid passport from your country of citizenship and, perhaps, a visa to enter other countries).
- After living in the USA for at least 5 years as a Green Card holder and meeting other eligibility requirements, you can apply to become an America citizen!
How long are the US Permanent Resident Visa and Green Card valid?
The US Permanent Resident Visa (Immigrant Visa) is usually valid for up to six months and it facilitates the entry into the United States of a new Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). A US Permanent Resident Green Card is issued for 10 years and is carried while living in the USA as an official form of identification and proof of LPR status. Green Card holders must renew their status every 10 years with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). This is done by filing Form I-90, which is also known as the Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.
Additionally, if a US permanent resident travels outside of the United States for an extended period longer than 12 consecutive months or has been absent from the country for any amount of time while residing abroad, they must obtain a reentry permit prior to departing from their place of residence in order to be granted re-entry back into the country.
Reentry permits are valid for two years and can be renewed for up to six months prior to expiration.
What is the Cost of Applying for a US Permanent Resident Visa?
The cost to apply for a US Permanent Resident Visa will depend on which US immigration program you are applying for, the size of your family, where you will live in the USA and other factors. For example, the Diversity Visa Lottery Fee is $330 USD per person, while the Immigrant Visa Fee is $325 USD per person. In general, you should expect to pay a US Permanent Resident Visa Processing Fee of around $200-350 USD per person, depending on the US immigration program you are applying for. In addition to paying the US Visa Application Processing Fee, you must also pay to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) the Immigrant Fee of $220 USD per person to receive your plastic US Permanent Resident Green Card(s). There are other expenses involved with US immigration, such as the costs of medical exams, travel to the United States for you and your family, living expenses after you arrive in the USA (for example, housing, food, communication, transportation, clothes, etc.) and other costs.
What is the Permanent Resident Visa Application Process & Requirements?
The process to apply for a US Permanent Resident Visa will depend on which US immigration program you apply for.
There are several US immigration programs that offer permanent residency in the United States including:
- Family-Based (for certain relatives of US citizens or permanent residents)
- Employment-Based (for priority workers, those with advanced degrees and others)
- Adoption (for non-US citizen children adopted by US citizens or permanent residents)
- Special Immigrant (Afghan or Iraqi interpreters/translators; foreign broadcasters; etc.)
- Diversity Visa (55,000 people per year can immigrate to the US via the DV Program)
The easiest way to obtain a US Green Card is via the US Diversity Visa Program, also known as the US Green Card Lottery Program.
The US Green Card Lottery Program is a federal program that allows immigrants born in particular countries, who also meet certain educational or work experience criteria, to enter the United States on a US Permanent Resident Visa (also known, in this case, as a Diversity Immigrant Visa) and to receive a Permanent Resident Green Card.
This program works by selecting applicants at random via computer, who must then go through a consular process to apply for one of the 55,000 US Diversity Immigrant Visas and Green Cards made available through this program each year.
USAFIS has over 20 years of experience providing review and submission services for the US Green Card Lottery.
We make it easy for you to prepare your application and photo(s) correctly and then USAFIS submits your application on your behalf to the Green Card Lottery during the annual registration period usually held in October.
If you are selected as a winner of the Green Card Lottery, USAFIS will promptly contact you so you can take the next step in the US immigration process as soon as possible.
USAFIS also offers a range of services to help your relocation experience go smoothly.
Are you ready to start a new life of opportunities living in the USA?
A United States Permanent Resident Visa, also known as an Immigrant Visa (or a Diversity Immigrant Visa, in the case of the DV-Lottery Program) is issued by the US State Department at the American Embassy or Consulate in the immigrant’s country of residence; it is placed on a page of his or her valid passport to permit entry into the USA; and it is usually valid for up to six months to allow the new immigrant to move to America.
The United States Permanent Resident Card (commonly known as a Green Card because of its color) is a plastic card issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) after the Permanent Resident Visa has been granted; it is valid for 10 years and can be renewed; and it is carried by an immigrant long-term while living in the USA as an official form of identification that is used when entering the United States and as proof of Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status in the US.
As a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States (Green Card holder), you are free to leave and return to the USA multiples times. In general, a Green Card holder can remain outside of the USA for up to 12 consecutive months. If you plan to stay outside of the United States for 12 consecutive months or longer, then you need to apply to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for a re-entry permit before you leave the United States. A re-entry permit is normally valid for 2 years. If you remain outside of the United States past the expiration date of your re-entry permit, you might not be allowed to re-enter the USA. Remember, a US Permanent Resident Green Card is issued to an individual who has indicated that he or she desires to reside in the United States; so, you are allowed to travel to and from the USA with your Green Card, but you also need to live in the USA (be resident) for enough time to maintain your permanent residency.
During Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, which started on October 1, 2021, and ended on September 30, 2022, there were 1,038,000 US Permanent Resident Green Cards issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). This included 493,000 Green Cards issued to new immigrants who were moving to America from abroad and 545,000 Green Cards granted to temporary legal residents already living in the USA (a procedure known as adjustment of status). The total number of Green Cards issued in FY-2022 was 73% higher than during FY-2021 and also higher than during 2019 before the start of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The term “Lawful Permanent Resident” (LPR) of the United States means that you are authorized to live in the USA for an unlimited length of time (permanently); however, there are certain things that you must do and must not do in order to keep your LPR status.
For example, you should not remain outside of the United States for a long period of time (12 consecutive months or more), as this could be interpreted by the US Government as abandoning your permanent resident status. In the event that you need to be outside of the United States for more than 12 months (for example, to take care of a sick family member, to work abroad on a short-term basis or for another legitimate reason), then you need to get a re-entry permit before you leave the USA (a re-entry permit is issued for up to 2 years). If you remain outside of the US after your re-entry permit expires, you may not be allowed to re-enter the United States.
As a US permanent resident, you are required to pay federal income tax and may also have to pay state or local taxes (depending on where you live). Young immigrants 18-26 years of age must register with the Selective Service agency. Each time you move, you must update your address within 10 days with USCIS. Furthermore, you must obey federal, state and local laws while living in the US as a permanent resident. You also cannot say that you are a US citizen if you are not (you can apply to become an American citizen after living in the USA 5 years and meeting other criteria). In sum, you can generally maintain your LPR status simply by obeying the law and living in the US the necessary amount of time.