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USA Permanent Resident Visas


Immigrants to the United States are divided into two categories: (I) those who may obtain permanent residence status without numerical limitation, and (II) those subject to an annual limitation. The latter category is further divided into (A) family-sponsored, (B) employment-based, and (C) diversity immigrants.

  1. Immediate Relatives: The spouse, widow(er) and minor unmarried children of a United States citizen, and the parents of a United States citizen who is 21 or older.
  2. Returning Residents: Previous U.S. lawful permanent residents who are returning to the U.S. after a stay of more than one year abroad.
Subject to certain transitional laws, immigration into the United States beginning in 1995 will be limited to 675,000 persons per year. That figure is divided into three distinct sub-categories.
  1. USA Family-Based Immigration Visas
Preference relatives may receive all of the visas not used by Immediate Relatives, but no less than 226,000 visas per year. Family-based preference categories (with minimum limits in parentheses) include:
  1. First Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and children if any. (23,400)
  2. Second Preference: Spouses, children, and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent resident aliens. (114,200)
  3. Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and children. (23,400)
  4. Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and children, provided the U.S. citizens are over 20. (65,000)
  1. USA Employment-Based Immigration Visas
A total minimum of 140,000 immigrant visas yearly are available for this category which is divided into five preference groups (percent of yearly limit):
  1. Priority Workers: Persons of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; outstanding professors and researchers; and certain multinational executives and managers (28.6%).
  2. Members of the Professions: Professionals holding advanced degrees, and persons of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, and business (28.6%).
  3. Professionals, Skilled and Unskilled Workers: Professionals holding baccalaureate degrees, skilled workers with at least two years experience, and other workers whose skills are in short supply in the United States (28.6%).
  4. Special Immigrants: Certain religious workers, ministers of religion, certain international organization employees and their immediate family members, and qualified, recommended current and former U.S. Government employees. (7.1%).
  5. Investors: Persons who create employment for at least ten unrelated persons by investing capital in a new commercial enterprise in the United States. The minimum capital required is between $500,000 and $1,000,000, depending on the employment rate in the geographic area (7.1%).
  1. USA Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery (USA Green Card Lottery)
The Diversity Lottery makes available a maximum of 55,000 immigrant visa numbers annually to persons selected at random from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. There is a separate registration for each year's visas. Information on registration for the lottery is announced each year by the State Department.


Certain applicants such as priority workers, investors, certain special immigrants, and diversity immigrants can petition on their own behalf. All others must have a relative or potential employer petition for them.

Applicants for family-sponsored immigrant visas should request the U.S. citizen relative to file a petition Form I-130 with the nearest USCIS. In some cases, if the U.S. citizen is residing abroad, he or she may file the petition with a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Applicants for employment-based immigrant visas may require an approved petition Form I-140 from the USCIS. Priority workers may petition on their own behalf with the USCIS, while others must have their prospective employers file the petitions. Prior to filing a petition with the USCIS, members of the profession, professionals, skilled and unskilled workers, must obtain certifications from the Department of Labor that there are no qualified workers available for the proposed employment in the U.S.

Special immigrant returning residents and U.S. Government employees must apply to the Secretary of State through a U.S. consular office abroad. All other special immigrants must file the I-360 petition with USCIS.

An investor must file a Form-I-526 petition with the USCIS.

Diversity immigrants must file an application with the U.S. Department of State. Information on registration will be announced each year by the State Department.

The State Department will advise the beneficiary of the petition (the applicant for a visa) when it is received from the approving office. The visa applicant will receive further instructions at that time.


The immigration laws of the United States, in order to protect the health, welfare, and security of the U.S., prohibit visa issuance to certain applicants. This includes persons who have a communicable disease such as tuberculosis, or have a dangerous physical or mental disorder, or are drug addicts; have committed serious criminal acts, including crimes involving moral turpitude, drug trafficking, and prostitution or procuring; are terrorists, subversives, members of a totalitarian party or former Nazi war criminals; are likely to become public charges in the U. S.; have used fraud or other illegal means to enter the U.S.; or are ineligible for citizenship. Some former exchange visitors must live abroad 2 years. Physicians who intend to practice medicine must pass a qualifying exam before receiving immigrant visas.

If any of the above restrictions might apply, then a statement regarding the facts should be submitted to the consular officer, who will advise the applicant if the law provides for some form of waiver.

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