CBO: 748,000 Foreign Nationals Granted U.S. Permanent Residency Status in 2009 Because They Had Immediate Family Legally Living in America

By Edwin Mora | January 11, 2011 | 4:01am EST

These illegal immigrants, deported to Mexico on Wednesday, July 28, 2010, are shown near the Nogales Port of Entry in Sonora, Mexico. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(CNSNews.com) – Foreign nationals with family ties to American citizens and green-card holders accounted for about two-thirds (748,000) of the total 1.1 million individuals who were granted legal permanent residency status by the U.S. government in 2009, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 

The number of foreign nationals who became legal permanent residents (LPRs) of the U.S. in 2009 as a result of family ties (66 percent) outpaced those who became LPRs on the basis of employment skills (13 percent) and humanitarian reasons (17 percent), the CBO revealed in a December 2010 report entitled, Immigration Policy in the United States: An Update.

“People granted permanent admission to the United States are formally classified as legal permanent residents and given a green card,” noted the CBO. “LPRs are eligible to live and work in the United States, own property, and join the armed forces; eventually, they may apply for U.S. citizenship.”

An individual who becomes an LPR or U.S. citizen can then sponsor the admittance of immediate family members into the U.S.

“In 2009, the United States granted LPR status to 1.1 million individuals, which is about average for the 2005–2009 period,” the CBO later added. “Family-based admissions, which include admissions of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and admissions under the program of family-sponsored preferences, together accounted for 66 percent of total admissions of legal permanent residents in 2009.”  

“About 536,000—or almost half—of the LPRs admitted in 2009 were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens…other relatives admitted under family-sponsored preferences constituted the next largest category, accounting for 212,000 new LPRs in 2009,” the CBO stated.

There are five categories under which the U.S. grants permanent residency status to foreign nationals, according to CBO. They include: relatives of U.S. citizens, family-sponsored preferences, employment-based preferences, the Diversity Program, and humanitarian reasons. 

The sub-categories under family-sponsored preferences admissions include – First preference: unmarried adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; Second preference: spouses and dependent children of LPRs, unmarried sons and daughters of LPRs; Third preference: married sons daughters of U.S. citizens; and Fourth preference: siblings of adult U.S. citizens.

According to CBO, family-based admissions of individuals who were granted permanent residency status under the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and family-sponsored preferences categories refer to those granted to “certain relatives of U.S. citizens and LPRs (such as spouses, parents, and unmarried children under age 21).”

Annual limits apply to “admissions based on family-sponsored preferences, employment based preferences, and diversity,” meanwhile “admissions of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and admissions for humanitarian reasons are unlimited,” explained the CBO. 

Given the unlimited cap of admission for relatives of U.S. citizens, the CBO showed that between 2005 and 2009, admissions on that basis “were 26 percent greater than such admissions from 2000 through 2004.”

The employment-based preferences category refers to when “the United States grants LPR status to workers with specific job skills, including individuals with extraordinary abilities, professionals with advanced degrees, and unskilled workers in occupations with labor shortages,” the CBO stated.

“Other people may enter the United States under the Diversity Program, which provides a pathway for individuals to gain permanent legal residency,” the CBO added. “Some foreign nationals are admitted to the United States for humanitarian reasons (as refugees or asylum-seekers), which allows them to apply for LPR status.

Of the 1.1 million individuals who were granted legal permanent residency status in 2009, 66 percent were family-based admission, 17 percent were humanitarian admissions, 13 percent were granted under employment-based preferences, and four percent under the Diversity Program admissions, the CBO revealed. 

From 2004 to 2009, “the two uncapped categories of LPR admissions (those of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and those for humanitarian reasons) were the only ones that experienced any significant growth,” the CBO stated.

“By contrast, admissions in the other three categories (family-sponsored preferences,

employment-based preferences and the Diversity Program) are numerically limited, resulting in relatively little change from 2004 to 2009,” the CBO added.

The CBO also revealed that the majority of those who were granted LPR status in 2009 had both family ties to a U.S. citizen or LPR and were already in the U.S. as a “temporary resident or visitor.”

“In 2009, about 40 percent of the 1.1 million individuals granted LPR status entered the United States for the first time as a permanent resident. The other 60 percent were individuals who were already in the United States when they were granted LPR status,” the CBO stated.

“Eligible people who are in the United States can file an application with the U.S. government that, if approved, would change their status from temporary resident or visitor to legal permanent resident,” the CBO added.

“Most of those adjustments to LPR status were based on a family relationship with a current U.S. citizen or LPR,” the CBO also stated.

Furthermore, the CBO stated, “of the total LPR admissions in 2009, the largest share was people born in Mexico (15 percent) and the second largest share was people born in China (6 percent).”

However, a bigger picture by CBO of the 1.1 million individuals who were granted LPR status in 2009 showed that “413,000 (or 37 percent) were born in Asia and 375,000 (or 33 percent) were born in North America (which includes Central America).”

The remaining individuals were born in South America (9 percent), Europe (9 percent), and Africa (11 percent).

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