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Gaining Permanent Residence
Status in the U.S.
Due to the complex nature of the Permanent Resident application process, it is impossible to address the many variables
that may come into play within the scope of this handout. International students and scholars considering immigrating to
the U.S. should consult with an immigration attorney for more specific information about their situation. Other resources
include the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) web site at http://uscis.gov, the U.S. Department of
State’s (DOS) web site at http://travel.state.gov or the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) at www.aila.org.
Books and publications on this topic can also be found at any public library or bookstore (since the laws are apt to
change, make sure your source is current).
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a “Green Card?”
This is the identification card that shows that a person has obtained permanent residence status in the U.S. What is
known as a "green card" actually came in a variety of different colors at different times in its history. Currently, the card
(called the “Permanent Resident Card”) is a multi-colored document with many high-tech security features such as
holograms and scanning devices.
What’s the difference between Permanent Residence Status and U.S. Citizenship?
You must first become a permanent resident before you are eligible to apply for citizenship. Permanent residents can live
and work in the U.S. indefinitely (if you depart the U.S. for a significant length of time, you may risk losing permanent
residence status), and are not required to apply for citizenship unless it is desired. When people apply for U.S.
citizenship, they swear by oath that they will uphold the principles stated in the U.S. constitution and serve in the U.S
military if necessary. Although permanent residents may be allowed to vote in local elections de