Path to become US Legal Resident

Legal residency is an immigration status in the United States which allows foreign nationals to live and work within the country on a more or less permanent basis. In most circumstances, immigrants follow the same pathways to permanent residency.

However, with the Green Card Lottery, there are a number of steps that can be passed by on the way to legal residency. In this article we’ll point out the shortcuts you can take advantage of if you register and win the Green Card Lottery.

Non-Immigrant Status

Most visas for non-immigrant status do not allow the holders to then immigrate while they have that status. Students, visitors and temporary workers must leave the country before they are allowed to attempt to immigrate fully to the United States.

H-1B visas are one status that allows non-immigrants to file for immigration while still in America, but these visas are incredibly popular and are quickly taken up. In 2013, all 65,000 available H-1B visas were issued within one week.

Green Card Lottery applicants need not concern themselves with non-immigrant visas.

Immigration Petitions

The first step to immigrating to the United States is filing an immigrant petition. These forms are filed by immigrants to effectively ask the government for permission to come to the country to live and work permanently.

There are two general types of immigration petitions:

  • Employment-Based: This type of petition is filed by employers on behalf of immigrants to allow them to come to the United States to work.
  • Family-Based: These petitions are filed by a US Permanent Resident or citizen on behalf of a foreign family member to request permission for them to enter and live in the United States.

After the petition is filed, there is often a waiting period that immigrants must undergo before they are allowed to immigrate. These waiting periods are often quite lengthy.

With the Green Card Lottery, the registration is effectively the petition to immigrate. If an applicant wins the lottery they can then apply for immigration and a green card.

Green Cards

Green cards are official US immigration documents that are issued to qualified applicants who have approved petitions. This document acts as proof of a person’s right to live, work and travel throughout the United States freely.

The application process for immigrating to the United States (and the issuance of a green card) can be accomplished one of two ways:

  • Consular processing, where an immigrant applies at a foreign consulate before entering the United States.
  • Adjustment of Status, where an immigrant applies at a USCIS office after they are already in the United States.

Green Card Lottery winners simply file the forms sent to them by the Kentucky Consular Center after they have won. If they are found to be qualified they will then be issued a green card.


After a certain period of time and with the completion of a few other requirements, permanent residents can then apply for citizenship in the United States.

With citizenship, a person cannot be deported unless it is found that their immigration documents or citizenship was granted fraudulently. Also, citizens have the right to vote.

Future Immigration Pathways

Currently, immigrants who reside in the United States without legal documentation are not allowed to immigrate legally (meaning receive a green card) unless they leave the country for a period of time.

However, this may soon change if certain immigration reform measures are passed in Congress. If this legislation is passed, there may be entirely new pathways to permanent residency for immigrants looking to live in the United States.