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The process by which a foreign national of nonimmigrant status can obtain immigrant or permanent resident status in the US. The applicant must be physically present in the US, must have an immigrant visa immediately available to him or her, must not have entered the US illegally, and must have no change in the circumstances that qualify the individual for adjustment of status.


The process by which a permanent resident becomes a US citizen. The requirements are:

  • the applicant must be 18 or older.
  • the applicant must have resided in the US for a continuous period of time before filing. The permanent resident must have lived continuously in the US for five years, or, if married to a US citizen, lived continuously in the US for three years before filing.
  • the applicant must have been physically present in the US for at least 30 months of the five-year period prior to filing. If married to a US citizen, the applicant must have been physically present for at least 18 months.
  • the applicant must be of good moral character. Among the criteria for lack of good moral character are the commission of crimes, polygamy, gambling offenses, etc.
  • the applicant must have attachment to the principles of the Constitution.
  • the applicant must be able to read, write, and speak ordinary English.
  • the applicant must demonstrate knowledge of the history and government of the United States.


Passed by Congress in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows spouses and children of US citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been abused or battered to petition for lawful permanent resident status. Those who qualify are battered spouses, a parent of a child who has been abused, and unmarried children under the age of 21 who have been abused.