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Within the immigrant community, you might hear people refer to themselves as a Permanent Residents, green card holders, or “naturalized” citizens. These terms have specific meanings that reflect that person’s immigration status and nationality. Understanding the differences for a resident of Oak Brook between permanent resident status and naturalization can be critical. For more insight, or if you require assistance with obtaining legal status, contact a skilled attorney.

Comparing Permanent Residency and Naturalization in Oak Brook

When an immigrant wants to live and work in the United States on a long-term basis, he or she must first seek to become a permanent resident. This status is also known as “holding a green card.”

Once a permanent resident that person has the right to live and work in the United States indefinitely. The green card itself is a travel document and evidence of legal permanent resident status. It is usually good for ten years, at which point an immigrant must pay a fee and renew it. A permanent resident can reapply to renew his or her green card indefinitely. However, a permanent resident should meet with a qualified immigration attorney if he or she committed a crime or lived outside of the U.S. longer than is legally permitted.

A naturalized citizen is different from a permanent resident primarily in that they have full citizenship rights. When a permanent resident has lived in the United States for a certain number of years and desires to become a citizen, he or she can go through the naturalization process to change their status and obtain the rights and responsibilities of every other U.S. citizen.

Common Ways of Obtaining Permanent Residency

  • Family Sponsorship
  • Employer sponsorship
  • Diversity lottery
  • Refugee and political asylum

Family & Employer Sponsorship

The most common way to obtain permanent residency is when current U.S. citizens or green card holders sponsor or petition for their close relatives to join them in the U.S. That being said, there are limits to who qualifies as a “close relative,” and in some cases there are numerical limits on how many family-based petitions are permitted every year.

Another common way to obtain permanent residency is for an employer to sponsor a foreign national employee. If someone has special job skills or “extraordinary ability” in his or her field, it could be possible for that worker to obtain a green card based on his or her work. Again, though, the law is specific as to who qualifies and under what circumstances.

Diversity Lottery

One somewhat unpredictable way of obtaining permanent residency is to apply for what is known as the green card lottery. Every year, 50,000 green cards are made available to citizens of countries that historically send the fewest numbers of immigrants to the United States. Understandably, the process is very competitive.

Refugee and Political Asylum

If an immigrant has experienced past persecution or has a legitimate fear of experiencing future persecution based on political opinion, nationality, race, religion, or membership in a particular social group, he or she can seek protection in the United States as a refugee or asylee. Refugees apply for relief while they are still outside of the United States, while asylum seekers typically request relief when they present at the border or after they have already entered the interior of the United States.

How a Permanent Resident Becomes a Naturalized Citizen

Naturalization offers many important benefits, including the right to vote, protection from deportation, the right to travel for extended periods outside of the United States at will, and the enhanced ability to obtain visas for family members. Typically, a permanent resident can consider naturalizing when he or she satisfies the following conditions:

  • 18 years old by the time he or she files the Naturalization form (Form N-400)
  • Permanent resident for at least five years, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen
  • Residence for at least three months in the state or USCIS district where he or she is applying
  • Possesses the ability to speak, read, and write basic English
  • Can pass a test on U.S. government and history
  • Has maintained “Good moral character” for the statutory period
  • Takes an oath of allegiance to the United States

There are many exceptions to this basic summary, and timeframes can be longer or shorter depending on an individual applicant’s circumstances. A qualified immigration attorney could analyze your case and determine the better option for you—between permanent resident status and naturalization—as a Oak Brook resident.

Getting Help Deciding on Permanent Resident Status Versus Naturalization in Oak Brook

You may be considering whether you can apply for a green card or perhaps pursue U.S. citizenship. A qualified immigration lawyer with experience counseling people from different types of backgrounds, preparing applications, and helping individuals and families navigate the U.S. immigration system may be able to help. Contact us today to start working to identify the right choice between permanent resident status and naturalization in Oak Brook.

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