About 1,000,000 people immigrate to the United States every year. More than have of those immigrate through an Adjustment of Status (AOS) process, wherein they are already in the United States under a different visa (a non-immigrant visa, such as a student or visitors visa) and then elect to change their status to an immigrant visa. Other immigrants go through Consular Processing, meaning that they apply through the U.S. Consulate, usually in their home country, to become a permanent U.S. citizen and then enter the United States as a permanent resident. Both paths are valid options for permanent residency, and which one you choose often depends on your personal circumstances, your current location, and whether or not you are already in the United States on a visa at the time. Speaking to an immigration lawyer about your options can help you determine a clear path to residency and get the process started.
Knowing which path is right for your situation is vital. Applying through the incorrect path could result in a refusal and end up delaying or even preventing your move to the United States as a permanent resident.