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Types of Immigration Status in the United States

When considering immigrating to the United States, you will need a visa to enter and to maintain status in the U.S.  There are four main types of immigration status categories to choose from when applying to enter.  It is possible to change from one status to another, so long as you meet the eligibility requirements. These four categories are as follows: 

U.S. Citizen

A U.S. citizen includes four sub-categories of individuals: (1) anyone who is born in the U.S., including the U.S. territories; (2) anyone who has acquired U.S. citizenship by being born outside the U.S. where at least one parent is a U.S. citizen; (3) anyone who has acquired citizenship through derivation, which occurs when a parent naturalizes and the child under 18 years old derives U.S. citizenship automatically; and (4) anyone who has become a citizen through naturalization, where a foreign-born person voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen after 3 or 5 years as a permanent resident in the United States.  

U.S. citizens have the right to live, work, and vote in the U.S. and are eligible to receive public benefits for which they qualify.  A U.S. citizen cannot be deported or forced to leave the United States. A U.S. citizen can petition to help other family members becoming legal residents and citizens. 

Lawful & Conditional Permanent Resident  

A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) is someone who holds a “green card”.  LPRs are authorized to live and work in the U.S. permanently and can travel in and out of the U.S. so long as the time abroad is limited.  However, an LPR is not eligible to vote and is not eligible for some public benefits; as well, an LPR may be deported based on violations of federal immigration law or certain criminal convictions. To become an LPR the applicant must demonstrate an intention to stay permanently in the United States.  LPR status can be obtained in several ways, including through family-based visas; employment-based visas; diversity-based visas; adjustment from refugee or asylee status, from VAWA status, or from T-visa, U-visa, or special immigrant statuses. 

A Conditional Permanent Resident (CPR) status applies to those who have obtained a green card through a U.S. citizen or LPR spouse and obtained the green card prior to completing the required two years of marriage.  With CPR status, the applicant and the spouse must file to remove the conditions prior to the two-year expiration of obtaining the CPR status.  If the conditions are not timely removed, the applicant faces the possibility of deportation due to loss of CPR status.  There are additional reasons which may cause a loss of CPR status, which include: denial of the joint petition; the marriage is found to be fraudulent; or divorce (unless a waiver is submitted).  

Non-Immigrant Status or Temporary Visitor

A non-immigrant is someone who is in the United States legally, but for only a temporary period of time.  In general, those with non-immigrant status do not intend to become residents.  The permission to stay in the United States legally comes in the form of a “visa” to live in the U.S. for a specified period and for a specific purpose. The purpose can include visiting, tourism, studying, working, fiancés, temporary protected status.  There are different types of visas depending on the purpose of the visit.  The non-immigrant must timely renew the visa to avoid the loss of legal immigration status.  A loss of status can also occur if the applicant overstays the visa, the terms of the visa are violated, or the application is fraudulent. Under these scenarios, the non-immigrant status turns to undocumented. 


An undocumented person in the United States does not have permission to live or work in the United States. This includes anyone who is not a U.S. citizen, green card holder, or visa holder.  Undocumented individuals do not have access to public benefits such as driver’s licenses, health care, or health insurance.  There is a risk of deportation or the initiation of deportation proceedings at any time.  A person can become undocumented by overstaying a visa or entering the U.S. without going through a port of entry.  

If you have any immigration needs, including, but not limited to, applying for citizenship, obtaining a visa, applying to get a green card, or you are in deportation proceedings, contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Krum, Gergely & Oates, today for a consultation.