According to a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Immigration Statistics, a total of 1,031,631 persons became legal permanent residents (i.e., “green card” recipients) of the United States in 2012. 53 percent of the new LPRs already lived in the United States when they received their green cards. Nearly 66 percent of new LPRs were granted permanent resident status based on a family relationship with a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. The leading countries of birth of new LPRs were Mexico (14 percent), China (7.9 percent), and India (6.4 percent).
A non-citizen who is granted legal permanent resident status has the right to live and work permanently anywhere in the United States, own property, and attend public schools, colleges, and universities. They may also join certain branches of the Armed Forces and apply to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain eligibility requirements.
United States immigration law designates certain priority categories for LPR status. As specified by the Immigration Act of 1990, an annual limit of between 416,000 and 675,000 currently exists for family-sponsored preference, employment-based preference, and diversity immigrants. In this post, we will highlight employment-based preferences.
Employment-based preferences consist of five categories of workers (and their spouses and children):
- priority workers
- professionals with advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability (such as many types of physicians, nurses, and other medical or health care professionals)
- skilled workers, professionals (without advanced degrees), and needed unskilled workers
- certain special immigrants (e.g., ministers, religious workers, and employees of the U.S. government abroad)
- employment-creating immigrants, or otherwise known as “investors”
The employment-based preference limit is equal to 140,000 plus any unused visas in the family-sponsored preferences from the previous year. In 2012, the limit on preference immigration was 370,951 which included 226,000 visas in the family-sponsored preferences and 144,951 visas in the employment-based preferences. In addition, there are per-country limits equal to 7 percent of the total number of family-sponsored and employment preferences. Dependent areas are limited to 2 percent. In 2012, the per-country limit was 25,967 and the dependent area limit was 7,419.
In our next article we will discuss some general information pertaining to paths to obtaining a Green Card.