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Legal Immigration to the United States, 1820-Present
The United States attracts the largest number of immigrants in the world, who join the fabric of U.S. society through avenues such as citizenship, becoming legal permanent residents (LPRs), or by seeking humanitarian protection. This chart tracks the number of people who annually are granted legal permanent residence (also known as getting a green card). Green-card holders are permitted to live and work in the country indefinitely, to join the armed forces, and to apply for U.S. citizenship after five years (three if married to a U.S. citizen). As of January 2012, an estimated 13.3 million green-card holders lived in the United States, including an estimated 8.8 million eligible to become U.S. citizens.