What is Adjustment of Status?
The term, Adjustment of status, is a process undergone by Individuals who are not born in the United States, and do not have legal permanent resident status (or a “green card” or “lawful permanent resident”) in order to remain in the country, for as long as they meet the necessary criteria. Adjustment of status usually involves a nonimmigrant visa holder or parolee (temporary) converting to immigrant status, in order to get a green card for lawful permanent residence.
For a foreign national who is not in the country or who is not qualified to adjust their status while inside the U.S., they will need to apply for an immigrant visa in their home country and enter the United States through “consular processing.”
Very few immigrants qualify to adjust their status in the United States. Applying to adjust your status at the wrong time or when you are not qualified for it can have negative consequences including the possibility of deportation. This is why we always recommend that you speak to an immigration lawyer before filing any immigration form with the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS).
Who is Eligible For Adjustment of Immigration Status?
If you intend to adjust to immigrant status, you must be physically present in the U.S. and must have legally entered the U.S. (with some exceptions, including abused spouses and children as defined in the VAWA or Violence Against Women Act). Your eligibility to become a green card holder depends on the following immigration categories defined by U.S. immigration law:
- Family based immigration
- Special Immigrant
- Refugee or Asylee Status
- Human Trafficking and Crime Victims
- Victims of Abuse
- Other categories as stipulated by the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services)
- Registry (if you had been residing in the U.S. since before January 1, 1972)
How Do I Apply for Adjustment of Status in the U.S.?
Once you have established your eligibility, such as whether a family member or employer may petition on your behalf, you may begin your green card application. The following steps are meant to serve as a general guideline. However, it is best to consult an experienced Chicago immigration attorney in order to be fully informed about the steps and options available to you. If you need to petition for an alien relative, you will have far better luck with an immigration lawyer than to try to do it yourself.
Step 1: File an Immigrant Petition
Most people who apply for a Green Card will need to complete at least two forms—an immigrant petition and a Green Card application. In most cases, someone else (a family member or employer) must file the petition for you (often referred to as sponsoring or petitioning for you). Although, in some cases, you may be eligible to file for yourself at the same time you file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485). You may check out the guidelines on “concurrent filing” in the USCIS site)
2. Confirm Visa Availability
In general, you may not file your Form I-485 until a visa is available in your category. There is a limit to the number of visas available in each category. As such, it is best to make sure an immigrant visa is available before applying for permanent residence. You may refer to the USCIS page “Visa Availability & Priority Dates” for updated information.
3. File an Application to Register Permanent Residency or Adjust Status
You must apply for permanent residence through Form I-485 regardless of whether a petition must be filed first or if it may be filed concurrently. Some categories may require a different form.
4. Go to the nearest Application Support Center
You will receive an email notification on when you can provide your biometrics data such as your photograph and fingerprints, and/or specimen signature. This data is used for identity verification and security checks.
5. Attend an Interview, if applicable
USCIS officials will review your application and decide if an interview is necessary for you to answer questions under oath or affirmation. You will be notified on the date, time and location of the interview(s). At the interview, you (and the family member who filed the immigrant petition for you, if applicable) will be required to present originals of all documentation submitted with the Form I-485 application. This includes passports, official travel documents, and Form I-94, regardless if they are expired.
6. Wait for Final Decision of the USCIS
You will be notified in writing whether or not your petition for permanent residency has been approved. If your application has been approved, you will receive your Permanent Resident Card or Green Card, shortly after the approval notice. Otherwise, you will receive a decline letter which states the reason/s why your card application has been denied, and whether you may appeal the decision.
Will an immigration lawyer help with my green card application?
Individuals who are seeking permanent resident status should always talk to an attorney regarding their situations. Even in the most straightforward and uncomplicated circumstances, the assistance of a Chicago immigration lawyer can make the process of obtaining a green card as simple as possible. To schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers, call Julia Sverdloff of Sverdloff Law Group today to discuss you case.