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Permanent Residency in the United States allows an individual to live and work in the United States without any restrictions. The only major limitation on the rights on permanent residents is they cannot vote in the United States. They can also lose their residence status if they are outside the country for long periods of time or if they commit crimes in the United States.

After holding residency status for 5 years (or for 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen) the individual can apply for U.S. citizenship. 

Before the 1920's, anyone could immigrate to the United States. Since then, however, laws have limited who can come to the country. The current laws only allow certain classes of people to immigrate to the United States:

Relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents Family-based immigrants
Individuals who have job skills that are in short supply in the U.S. Employment-based immigrants

Individuals from specific countries selected under a special Visa Lottery each year Visa Lottery

In most of the immigration categories, spouses and minor (under age 21) children can immigrate along with the main applicant.

Because there is a quota on the number of people who can immigrate to the United States each year, in some categories there can often be a significant wait for a visa to become available.

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