A lawful permanent resident can apply for United States citizenship, or naturalization, after five years of residency. This period is shortened to three years if married to a U.S. citizen. Lawful permanent residents may submit their applications for naturalization as early as 90 days before meeting the residency requirement. In the United States, 8.8 million lawful permanent residents are eligible to naturalize. Citizens are entitled to more rights (and obligations) than permanent residents (who are still classified as aliens in this respect). Lawful permanent residents generally do not have the right to vote, the right to be elected in federal and state elections (although even naturalized citizens cannot be elected President under Article II of the Constitution), and the ability to bring family members to the United States, or eligibility for federal government jobs. Male permanent residents between the ages of 18 and 25 are subject to registering in the Selective Service System. Permanent residents who reside in the United States must pay taxes on their worldwide income (this includes filing annual U.S. income tax returns), like U.S. citizens.
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Many immigrants opt for this route, which typically requires an employer to sponsor the immigrant through a presumed future job (in some special categories, the applicant may apply on his/her behalf without a sponsor). The three-step process outlined above is described here in more detail for employment-based immigration applications. After the process is complete, the alien is expected to take the certified job offered by the employer to substantiate his or her immigrant status, since the application ultimately rests on the alien’s employment with that company in that particular position.
1. Immigrant petition – the first step includes the pre-requisite labour certification upon which the actual petition will reside.
2. Immigrant visa availability. When the immigrant petition is approved by the USCIS, the petition is forwarded to the NVC for visa allocation. Currently, this step centres on the priority date concept.