People in the United States with “green cards” are officially called “lawful permanent residents” (LPRs). These are non-U.S. citizens who can lawfully live and work permanently in the United States.
Holders of green cards can work in the country without restrictions, own property, receive financial assistance at public institutions of education, and even sign up to serve in the American military.
Green card holders can also apply for U.S. citizenship—in some cases in as soon as three years—granting them privileges such as a U.S. passport, the right to vote, and the ability to seek federal jobs, and many more.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) establishes various classes of admission for foreigners seeking legal permanent residence in the United States. Admission categories can be based on family reunification, on economic or humanitarian reasons, or on diversification of the immigrant community in the country. This last category is for immigrants from countries with low levels of immigration to the United States and persons wishing to immigrate to the U.S. through this category are selected in an annual lottery, the Diversity Visa Program, for which you can apply now.
Approximately 740,000 people received their green cards in 2021 and thus became legal permanent residents. In 2021, there was a 5% increase in green cards awarded compared to 2020.
Because of difficulties created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the numbers of green cards awarded in 2020 and 2021 were lower than in previous years. As the impacts of Covid-19 subside, the number of green cards granted is expected to return to normal, historical levels.
New Green Card Holders (LPRs) 2017-2021
|New Legal Permanent Residents||1,127,167||
Among the many categories of admission under which new legal permanent residents are allowed into the country, exists the Diversity Visa category of admission.
Winners of the yearly DV Lottery program are granted legal permanent residence (a “green card”) for themselves and their direct family,,and are counted under the Diversity category.
In 2020 and 2021, the number of diversity visas issued was dramatically less than the roughly 50,000 available annually. This scenario was created by the suspension of certain immigration-related government services and the partial travel ban imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As government and immigration services return online with the decline in Covid-19 restrictions, the number of diversity visas is anticipated to return to a normal level in the next years.
Following are figures for the number of immigrants who obtained their green cards (legal permanent residence status) through the Diversity Visa Program.
LPRs by Diversity Visa (DV) Class of Admission
|DV category admissions||51,592||45,350||43,463||25,028||15,145|
|Percent DV admissions||4.6%||4.1%||4.2%||3.5%||2.0%|
According to the latest data available from the U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics, there were 13.1 million legal permanent residents (green card holders) living in the United States as of January 1, 2021. This number is slightly lower than the previous year’s 13.4 million green card holders mainly because of obstacles created by the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to a decline in the processing of new green cards.
Of the 13.1 million green card holders in 2021, approximately 9.2 million qualified to become U.S. citizens, or eligible to “naturalize.” They qualified based on requirements for age and length of residency in the U.S. as legal permanent residents. Overall, the population eligible to become U.S. citizens increased by 2% between 2019 and 2021.
Total Green Card Holders (LPRs) 2017-2021
|Total LPRs (non-U.S. citizens)||13,300,000||13,410,000||13,460,000||13,350,000||13,110,000|
|Total eligible to become U.S. citizens||8,920,000||8,950,000||9,000,000||8,940,000||9,210,000|
Remember that these figures are for immigrants in the U.S. who are green card holders but have not yet become U.S. citizens.
Green card holders in the U.S. can eventually request to become U.S. citizens, which grants them the right to vote and to obtain an American passport. This process is formally called “naturalization.”
Applying for naturalization can be a simple process. There are basic requirements that the person must satisfy for the request (or petition) for naturalization to be approved. These include things like being a minimum of 18 years old, having been a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) for 3 or 5 years (depending on the immigration category), and having been a resident in the U.S. continuously over that period.
The process begins with the completion of an online application with questions related to the applicant and their direct family. After the application is reviewed and approved by an immigration officer, the candidate is invited to an in-person interview in as soon as six months. The interview includes questions about the applicant’s background and some questions about general American culture and history (the answers which are provided ahead of time for the applicant to memorize). Once the interview is passed, the candidate is asked to swear loyalty to the American Constitution and flag, and the candidate receives a “Certificate of Naturalization,” which is the document needed to apply for a U.S. passport and the confirmation that the candidate has passed from being a legal permanent resident to an American citizen.
Below are recent statistics for naturalization requests and approvals.
Petitions for Naturalization and Persons Naturalized 2017-2021
The total population of green card holders in the United States come from diverse backgrounds and many countries. In 2021, the top countries in which LPRs were born are Mexico, China, and the Dominican Republic.
Here are the Top 10 countries of birth for immigrants holding legal permanent residence status in 2021:
LPRs by Country of Birth
Green card holders in the United States were primarily born in North America (Mexico, in particular) and in Asia. These two are the regions of the world having the highest numbers of LPRs in the U.S.
The table below provides a breakdown for all geographical regions.
LPRs by Region of Birth
Among all green card holders in 2021, those who were eligible to become U.S. citizens were born in almost every country of the world. But Mexico remains the #1 birth country (not surprising given that country’s extensive shared border with Texas, Arizona, California, and New Mexico). It is followed by China, the Philippines, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.
Here are statistics for the Top 10 countries of birth for those legal permanent residents who were able to request U.S. citizenship in 2021.
LPRs Eligible to Naturalize
As is the case with the total number of LPRs in the United States, the regions of birth with the largest numbers of LPRs in the U.S. who are eligible to apply for citizenship are North America (primarily Mexico) and Asia.
Here is the breakout by world region.
LPRs Eligible to Naturalize by Region of Birth
Mexico, India, and the Philippines are the Top 3 countries in which most new U.S. citizens were born in recent memory. The following table shows numbers of new citizens from the Top 10 birth countries.
Persons Naturalized by Country of Birth
In terms of legal permanent residents who have successfully become U.S. citizens, Asia is currently the region of birth with the most naturalized citizens, followed by North America (again, primarily Mexico).
Persons Naturalized by Region of Birth
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