Immigration Registry Laws

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 What Is the Immigration Registry?

The immigration registry is issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The registry functions as a pathway to obtaining a green card or permanent legal resident status even if someone has entered or stayed unlawfully in the country.

Nevertheless, this option is only open to immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for a substantial time and satisfy exact eligibility provisions.

Who Is a Permanent Resident Alien?

A permanent resident alien is an individual who is not a citizen of the United States living in the United States under an acknowledged and proper immigration visa, giving them permanent resident status to work and live in the United States indefinitely.

Generally, proof of such permanent residency status is evidenced by having a permanent resident card, also known as a green card. Permanent resident status may also refer to immigrants who have entered the country under a conditional residency status and have adjusted their status to that of a permanent resident.

Legal permanent residents may also be referred to as a “resident alien permit holder,” “green card holder,” or “permanent resident alien.”

Permanent residents obtain many powers and rights inherently given to United States citizens. A permanent resident alien may work at any job lawfully in the United States, own property, and do not have to return to their home countries.

As long as your green card remains valid, you may travel to and from your home country anytime as a permanent resident. Permanent residence status may lead to the chance to apply for U.S. citizenship.

How Do I Obtain Permanent Residency Status?

You are not entitled to request a permanent residency card for just any reason. Permanent residency status requires first filing an immigration petition with the United States Immigration Services and meeting other eligibility conditions to apply to be a permanent resident. There are different types of residencies, and the following are some examples of ways to receive permanent residency status:

  • Family Member Based Permanent Residency: Family members of U.S. citizens or family members of permanent residents may be able to apply for permanent residence status because of their relationship with them. The Immigration & Nationality Act and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) permit spouses, parents, and unmarried children (younger than 21 years old and unmarried) of United States citizens to apply for permanent residency status;
  • Employment-based Permanent Residency: People hired for qualified positions or who hope to start business ventures in the United States may be qualified for a green card and granted permanent residency status. Additionally, in exceptional cases, such as with professional athletes from foreign countries, immigrants may be able to receive permission to work and live in the United States permanently;
  • Fiancé(e) Visa: A fiancé(e) of a citizen or permanent resident is usually given conditional resident status when entering the United States. After some time, they can apply to have the conditions cleared to obtain permanent status by filing “Form I-129F, Petition For Alien Fiancé(e)” and planning to marry one another within 90 days of entering the United States;
  • Individuals Seeking Asylum and Refugees: Individuals filing for permanent residency under this category can usually apply for permanent residency after one year. These individuals are usually escaping persecution or treacherous situations in their home country and, thus, will be defined as refugees or asylees. Getting permanent residency status for refugees and asylees is different from for other groups. Thus, an experienced immigration attorney should be consulted in these matters;
  • Diversity Visa Lottery: The diversity visa lottery program allows immigrants to travel to the United States and later apply for permanent residency status.

Who Is Eligible for a Green Card Through the Immigration Registry?

The following is a list of conditions to obtain a green card through the immigration registry:

  1. Must have entered the U.S before January 1, 1972;
  2. Must have continually resided in the U.S. since January 1, 1972;
  3. Must be a person of sound moral character;
  4. Must not be eligible for naturalization or citizenship; and
  5. Must not be removable (commonly referred to as deportation) or inadmissible as specified in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Upon meeting all of the above measures, the eligible individual must finish the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, form I-485. In some circumstances, a pending I-485 petition may authorize applicants to seek work authorization and to travel outside of the U.S. with the opportunity to re-enter.

What Conditions Can Disqualify a Person from Eligibility for the Immigration Registry?

The following is a list of conditions that could disqualify a person from pursuing a green card through the Immigration Registry:

  • Involvement in specific criminal activities such as narcotics, smuggling, or human trafficking;
  • Participation in terrorist actions as defined by U.S. law;
  • Participation in a Nazi regime or other genocidal program;
  • Being removable under the Immigration and Nationality Act;
  • Being ineligible for citizenship through naturalization; or
  • Failing to attend a removal hearing or failing to leave after agreeing to a voluntary exit may result in a waiting period before one can apply through the Immigration Registry.

How Does a Foreign Citizen Become a Naturalized U.S. Citizen?

An immigrant may apply for naturalization after receiving their permanent resident card and acquiring legal permanent resident (LPR) status. Five years after obtaining their green card, the individual may apply for naturalization using Form N-400, “Application for Naturalization .”The applicant needs to be at least 18 years old and must satisfy various eligibility requirements (such as residing in the U.S. for a set time).

Where Do I Submit My Naturalization Application?

You may submit your finished “Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) to the appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Center. You should also present any documents and any other additional info that has been requested of you. Be sure to make a copy of your application and all documents to keep for your records. Note: Do NOT send original documents with the application unless an original is needed.

When Does My Time as a “Lawful Permanent Resident” (LPR) Begin?

Your time as an LPR starts on the date you were granted LPR status. This is shown on your Permanent Resident Card (previously known as “Alien Registration Card”).

What Documentation is Needed to Apply through the Immigration Registry?

The following is a list of documentation that is needed to accompany Form I-485 in seeking a green card through the Immigration Registry:

  • Two passport-style photographs of the applicant;
  • A copy of the applicant’s government-issued photo identification;
  • A copy of the applicant’s birth certificate;
  • A copy of the applicant’s passport page with a nonimmigrant visa (if applicable);
  • A copy of the applicant’s passport page with the admission (entry) stamp (if applicable);
  • The applicant’s form I-94, Arrival/ Departure Record (if appropriate);
  • Proof or documentation that the applicant entered the United States before January 1, 1972; and
  • Proof or documentation to verify the applicant’s continuous residence in the U.S. since entry.

Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer?

Immigration law is an area of law that experiences regular changes. Applying for lawful status can be difficult, as indicated in the above steps. A local immigration lawyer in your location can help you determine your eligibility and file the appropriate forms to obtain a green card. Additionally, an immigration attorney can assist in resolving any risks you may have in being removed and explain your rights.


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