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Screening of Legal Permanent Residents

The Brief

This is one of three blog posts explaining the current vetting process for different groups of immigrant and nonimmigrant foreign persons seeking entry into the United States. Read our posts on Refugees and Nonimmigrant Visas.

Legal permanent resident (LPR) status, which is commonly referred to as a “green card,” allows foreign nationals to permanently live and work in the United States.

LPR status can be acquired through one of four main ways: family sponsorship, employment, refugee or asylum status, or the diversity visa lottery.

To be eligible, applicants must have a qualifying immigrant petition filed and approved and wait for a visa to be made available. Would-be immigrants must also submit to several screenings. Applicants that fail the health screening, have a criminal history, present a national security concern, or raise concerns on any other grounds considered important may be denied admission.

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Green Card Screening Process

  1. Applicants must undergo medical examinations to ensure that they are not inadmissible on health-related grounds. They are checked for different classes of conditions that will determine their admissibility:

    Class A Health Conditions (automatically denied entry): Presence of a communicable disease of public health significance, not having a vaccination record, mental disorders associated with harmful behavior, and drug abuse or addiction

    Class B Health Conditions (may deny entry): Condition interferes with applicant’s ability to care for him or herself, interferes with applicant’s ability to attend school or work, and any conditions that require extensive medical treatment or institutionalization

  2. Applicants are required to submit biometric and biographic records, including the applicant’s fingerprints, photograph, and signature.

  3. Applicants undergo four separate background checks with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to screen against terrorism, public safety, sex offenses, active warrants, and gang affiliations:

    Two biometric fingerprint checks through the FBI and the DHS’s US-VISIT system against the Automated Biometric Identification (IDENT) databasethe central system at DHS for storing and processing biometric and biographic information to verify a person’s identity and check against databases and watchlists of known or suspected terrorists, criminals, and immigration violators.

    Two biographic name-based checks through the FBI and DHS’s Customs and Border Protection’s TECS system—an information-sharing platform and records system that searches across 26 different federal agencies, including the Terrorist Screening Database.

  4. Applicants overseas must attend an in-person interview with a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Applicants in the United States may be interviewed if there is any information in the application that raises concerns.

  5. Green cards can also be revoked after being issued if the recipient commits a serious crime or is discovered to have committed visa fraud.

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