An immigrant intending to permanently reside in the United States must have a valid unexpired immigrant visa and present a valid unexpired passport or other suitable travel document. Immigrant visas (also known as “green cards”) authorize aliens to live, work, or study and remain permanently in the United States . Immigrant visas (IVs) are a responsibility of the Department of State (DOS), Consular Affairs Bureau. Most IVs require approval of an underlying Petition by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service (BCIS or USCIS) before any immigrant visa processing begins.
When authorized to begin, an alien applies for an immigrant visa through a US consulate abroad (consular processing) and, upon approval, the alien may enter the United States as a permanent resident. An alien who is already in the United States and has complied with US Immigration laws, may apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence, without leaving the US
The spouse and minor children of an alien approved for permanent residence, may also obtain permanent residence to accompany or join such alien.
The status granted by an immigrant visa, or adjustment of status to permanent residence, usually requires a sponsoring employer or close family member in the US There are also opportunities for others, including asylees and refugees, to gain permanent residence. Aliens may qualify for permanent residence based on family relationship, employment relationship, investment, or other authorized basis.
Aliens who become permanent residents may remain in the US indefinitely and may travel into and out of the US without having to renew visas or obtain extensions of stay.