DHS Reports on Lawful Permanent Residents in 2011

The U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS), a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released a report detailing the status of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) in the United States as of 2011.

Foreign nationals granted lawful permanent resident status have the unrestricted right to reside in the United States for as long as such persons choose, provided they make the United States their permanent home of all homes which they may have in the world.  Such persons have the right to join certain branches of the armed forces, live and work anywhere in the United States, and apply to become a citizen if they meet certain eligibility requirements.

In 2011, slightly more than 1 million people were granted LPR status in the United States.  Approximately 65% of these residents gained their status through a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen.  The top countries of origin for new LPRs were Mexico (14 percent), China (8.2 percent) and India (6.5 percent).

The statute governing United States immigration is the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended.  Under INA, there are 2 principal vehicles through which foreign nationals qualify to immigrate:  through certain family relationships, or through certain offers of employment.  Once the family or employment based petition is approved, the foreign national either applies for an immigrant visa abroad, or if in the United States applies to adjust status to that of a lawful permanent resident.   Additionally, foreign nationals who hold refugee or asylee status can also qualify.

There are annual visa limits on preference-based immigration.  In 2011, the limit was 366,000, including 226,00 visas granted in the family sponsored categories, and 140,000 visas granted in the employment-based categories.  Another category is diversity-based preference, which refers to nationals of countries with relatively low rates of immigration to the United States.  Nationals of countries with fewer than 50,000 admissions based on employment or family preferences during the previous 5 years are eligible for the Diversity Visa Program. Many immigrant visa categories – both family and employment – are backlogged in that there is a substantial wait for a visa to become available.

Some applicants for LPR status are exempt from the above requirements, most notably immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.  This includes spouses and children of U.S. citizens, including children adopted abroad.  It also includes parents of U.S. children aged 21 and over.  The category of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens accounts for 40% of the flow of legal permanent residents, on average.

Stewart Rabinowitz is President of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. Mr. Rabinowitz is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To contact a Dallas immigration lawyer or Dallas immigration attorney visit http://www.rabinowitzrabinowitz.com.