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The 3 Main Categories of U.S. Immigration Status

The 3 Main Categories of U.S. Immigration Status

Permanent or Conditional Residents

A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) is a non-citizen who has the authority to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis.  As proof of that status, an LPR is granted a “green card.” A green card holder obtains permanent status by either sponsorship or through refugee or asylee status.  Sponsors can be a family member or employer.

Residents who have been married less than two years to a U.S. citizen before receiving their green card are called Conditional Residents.  This type of status requires a petition to remove the condition within two years of receiving your green card or resident status will be terminated.

Both types of residents are authorized to live and work permanently in the U.S. although a history of serious criminal offenses or immigration violations will jeopardize these rights.  Depending on the circumstances, after 3-5 years of maintaining LPR status, a resident can apply to become a naturalized citizen.


U.S. citizens are those who are born in the country or have become naturalized citizens.  This status is the most secure since citizens cannot be deported, unless citizenship was fraudulently obtained.  Citizens can work without any restrictions and receive any public benefits they qualify for. Citizens also have the ability to sponsor other family members to receive legal status.


Those who enter the U.S. illegally, without permission are referred to as “undocumented.”  Undocumented people are not authorized to reside or work in the country and don’t have access to government programs.  This is the riskiest immigration status since undocumented people can be deported at any time. Many times people become undocumented by overstaying a temporary visa or entering the U.S. without going through a port of entry.

If you have any questions about your immigration status or how a criminal or immigration violation may affect you, contact our office to schedule a thorough assessment of your situation with one of our experienced immigration attorneys.

Charlotte Family & Divorce Lawyers and Immigration Attorneys

Charlotte Family & Divorce Lawyers and Immigration Attorneys N/a