Green card activity, 2009

The Department of Homeland Security reported on green card activity in 2009, in the process providing a succinct overview of green cards. Green cards are given to legal permanent residents. In 2009, a total of 1,130,818 persons became LPRs of the United States. The majority of new LPRs (59%) already lived in the United States when they were granted lawful permanent residence. Nearly two-thirds were granted permanent resident status based on a family relationship with a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident of the United States. The leading countries of birth of new LPRs were Mexico (15%), China (6%), and the Philippines (5%).
A legal permanent resident (LPR) or “green card” recipient is defined by immigration law as a person who has been granted lawful permanent residence in the United States. Permanent resident status confers certain rights and responsibilities. For example, LPRs may live and work permanently anywhere in the United States, own property, and attend public schools, colleges, and universities. They may also join certain branches of the Armed Forces, and apply to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain eligibility requirements. This Office of Immigration Statistics Annual Flow Report presents information obtained from applications for LPR status on the number and characteristics of persons who became LPRs in the United States during 2009.1
Green cards can be awarded expressly for employment reasons, limited to 140,000 per year; thus about 13% of green cards in 2009 were awarded for employment “preferences.” The 140,000 applies to the workers – their spouses and children are in addition to the 140,000.
Employment preferences consist of five categories of workers (and their spouses and children): priority workers (about 41,000 in 2009); professionals with advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability (46,000) ; skilled workers, professionals (without advanced degrees), and needed unskilled workers; special immigrants (e.g., ministers, religious workers, and employees of the U.S. government abroad)( 40,000); and employment creation immigrants or “investors” (3,000).

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