A Legal Permanent Resident (“LPR”), also known as a “Green Card” holder, is the status conferred on someone who wishes to make the United States their permanent home and has someone to sponsor him or her, does not have serious criminal convictions, nor has any serious immigration violations. It is a necessary first step in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. We have processed thousands of these types of applications for our clients.
The usual way to obtain residency, not including business-related visas, is for a family member to sponsor you. The regulations divide family members into groups, some with quotas and others without. Those without quotas are called “immediate” family members, who are being petitioned by a U.S. citizen only: 1) spouses; 2) children (over the age of 21) on behalf of parents; and 3) parents on behalf of children, under the age of 21, who are unmarried. Otherwise, there are quotas, and because of those quotas, there are waiting times for the following categories: 1) unmarried sons and daughters (over the age of 21) of U.S. citizens; 2) spouses and children of permanent residents; 3) unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents; 4) married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; 5) brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.
Unless you fit into one of these categories, you will not qualify for a family based visa. With respect to those who may have entered the U.S. illegally, you still have the option to gain permanent residency. You would be required to leave the U.S., get a visa at your home consulate, and then return on the visa (unless you qualify for the 2001 amnesty). This process is called “consular processing.” There are waivers available for those who can demonstrate hardship to their spouses (or parents) who are residents or citizens.