Green cards, or lawful permanent resident status, can be granted to immigrants who lawfully enter the United States on another temporary visa, such as a visitor visa, student visa, or work visa. Lawful permanent residency status can be applied for once a person is already in the U.S. on a temporary visa, or it can be applied for to go into effect once the person’s visa becomes current.
Immigrants who are relatives of U.S. citizens face no numerical restrictions on green cards. All other foreign nationals are subject to annual numerical caps and must effectively “wait in line,.” with their priority date based on the preference category of their visa and their country of origin. Some immigrants may have to wait years or even decades before being granted lawful permanent residency.