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Permanent Legal Immigration to the United States: Policy Overview

Permanent Legal Immigration to the United States: Policy Overview Ruth Ellen Wasem, Specialist in Immigration Policy. December 17, 2012

  • “The pool of people who are eligible to immigrate to the United States as legal permanent residents (LPRs) each year typically exceeds the worldwide level set by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In an effort to process the demand for LPR visas fairly and in the national interest, LPR admissions are subject to a complex set of numerical limits and preference categories that give priority for admission on the basis of family relationships, needed skills, and geographic diversity. The INA further specifies that each year, countries are held to a numerical limit of 7% of the worldwide level of U.S. immigrant admissions, known as per-country limits or country caps. In FY2011, just over 1 million aliens became U.S. legal permanent residents (LPRs). Of this total, nearly 65% entered the United States on the basis of family ties. Other major categories of LPRs were employment-based (13%), refugees and asylees (16%), and diversity migrants (5%). In FY2011, Mexico was the source country of 14% of LPRs who were admitted or who adjusted status. Other top countries were China (8.2%), India (6.5%), Philippines (5.4%), and the Dominican Republic (4.3%). Rather than newly arriving from abroad, 54.6% (580,092) were adjusting to LPR status from a temporary (i.e., nonimmigrant) status within the United States.”
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