If you are an immigrant living in the United States, you may be interested in applying for a green card.
This process is called Adjustment of Status. In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about adjustment of status application, including the eligibility requirements that must be met prior to submitting your application.
Eligibility Requirements For The Adjustment Of Status Process
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has a set of requirements that must be met prior to applying for Adjustment of Status (AOS). Let’s take a look at the different eligibility categories.
Eligibility Through Family
You are eligible to adjust status if you are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. This may include:
• U.S. citizen spouse
• Unmarried child who is under 21, whose parent is a U.S. citizen
• A parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old
You can also adjust status if you are a family member of a U.S. citizen. This applies only if you are:
• A son or daughter of an American citizen, and you are unmarried, and at least 21 years old
• A married daughter or son of a U.S. citizen
• A sister or brother of an American citizen, who is 21 years old or older
Also, you may be eligible to adjust status if you are a family member of a green card holder, also known as a lawful permanent resident. This means you are the:
• Spouse of a green card holder
• A child of a green card holder, and you are unmarried and under 21 years old
• A child of a green card holder who is at least 21 years old, and you are not married
If you are a fiancé of a U.S. citizen, you may also be eligible to adjust your status. However, you must:
• Be a K-1 visa holder, meaning you were admitted into the United States as a fiancé of the US citizen
• Be a K-2 visa holder, meaning were admitted into the U.S. as the child of a fiancé of a United States citizen
If you are a widow or widower of an American citizen, you are eligible to become a lawful permanent resident if you were married to a U.S. citizen spouse at the time of their death.
Additionally, you may file for a green card as a self-petitioner. However, for this to work, you must have been a victim of battery or extreme cruelty, or:
• An abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or green card holder
• An abused parent of an American citizen
• An abused child of an American citizen or green card holder, and you are unmarried, and not older than 21 years
Eligibility Through Employment
You can apply for permanent residence if you are an immigrant worker, physician of national interest, or an immigrant investor. Let’s take a deeper look at each one of these three subcategories.
This subcategory is further divided into other sub subcategories. They include:
First preference immigrant workers: These are immigrants with extraordinary ability in arts, sciences, education, athletics, or business. Outstanding professors, researchers, or multinational managers who meet certain requirements may also be eligible for permanent residence.
Second preference immigrant workers: Your profession requires an advanced degree, or you have exceptional ability in business, arts, sciences, or you’re seeking a national interest waiver.
Third preference immigrant worker: This sub subcategory is for immigrant workers who have a minimum of two years of work experience or training in their respective fields, and their professions require at least two-years’ Bachelors’ Degree.
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The Physician National Interest Waiver category is for physicians who agree to take up full-time roles at clinics located in underserved areas for a certain period. However, they must also meet other eligibility requirements as stipulated by the USCIS.
The Immigrant Investor category, on the other hand, is reserved for immigrants who have or are in the process of investing a minimum of $1 million in a commercial enterprise located in the United States. This investment should be able to create at least 10 employment opportunities for qualifying employees.
Eligibility As A Special Immigrant
Under this eligibility category, there are also other additional sub subcategories. They include:
Religious worker: You are coming to the United States to work for a non-profit religious organization
Special Immigrant Juvenile: You are a juvenile who needs to be protected by a juvenile court due to abuse, abandonment or you were neglected by a parent.
Afghanistan or Iraqi national: You worked with the U.S. government as a translator or interpreter, you worked for the U.S. government in Iraq on or after March 20, 2003 for not less than a year, or you were an Afghanistan citizen working for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
International Broadcaster: You are entering the U.S as a member of the media for the U.S. Agency for Global Media or a grantee of the organization.
If you are a retired employee or officer of an eligible international organization or NATO, you may also apply for a green card. You can also qualify if you are an eligible family member of such an employee.
Eligibility Through Asylee Or Refugee Status
You can apply for a green card if you are an asylee or a refugee in the United States. However, for the adjustment of status request to be approved, you must meet the following requirements.
Asylee: You were granted asylum in the United States at least one year ago.
Refugee: You were admitted into the United States a refugee at least one year ago.
Eligibility As A Victim Of Crime, Abuse And Human Trafficking
You are eligible to register permanent residence or adjust status if you are a victim of human trafficking and you have a T nonimmigrant visa. Also, you may be eligible if you are a crime victim, and you have a U nonimmigrant visa.
Other Eligibility Categories
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services also lists other eligibility categories for green card applicants. They include:
• Liberian nationals who have been living in the United States since Nov 20, 2014
• The spouse, unmarried child over the age of 21, or child under age 21 of a qualifying Liberian citizen
• Cuban native citizens or the spouse or child of a Cuban native citizen
• Abused child or spouse of a Cuban native citizen
• Child or spouse of a permanent resident who received the green card based on the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, also known as HRIFA.
• Abused child or spouse of a green card holder, who received the green card via HRIFA
• Citizen or native of Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia who was paroled into the United States on or before Oct 1, 1997
• American Indian born in Canada, and maintains primary residence in the United States
• Individual born in the United States to a foreign diplomat who was based in the U.S. when the applicant was born
• If the applicant is a diplomat who was stationed in the U.S. and unable to return to their home country
• If you have been living in the United States continuously before January 1, 1972
It is important to understand the exact form you need to file based on your eligibility category. If you file the wrong form, your application will not be approved, and you will have to refile with the correct one. If you have a sponsor filing on your behalf, here are the different types of forms they need to file.
Form I-130: The sponsor files this USCIS form for a family green card. For example, a U.S. citizen spouse may file this form to petition the U.S. government to grant their spouse a green card.
Form 1-140: This is the form filed for employment-based applications
Form I-730: This is the form to file if the applicant wishes to become a permanent resident based on humanitarian grounds, such as refugees and asylees.
Filing Checklist For Adjustment Of Status
After identifying the eligibility category that suits your case from the options provided above, the next step is to check out the application checklist. This is basically a guide to ensure that you are filing the correct documents to the USCIS.
For example, if you are an immediate relative of a permanent resident or U.S. citizen (refer to the eligibility categories above), you must ensure the following conditions are met.
• You have provided two passport-style photographs along with your application
• You have attached a copy of your government-issued identification document, for example, an ID or passport bearing your photograph
• Proof that you have been living lawfully in the United States since your arrival.
It is also important to note that while the above-mentioned requirements should be met prior to submitting your adjustment of status application, the USCIS may require additional documentation depending on your eligibility category. For instance, if you want to get a green card after marrying a U.S. citizen, herein referred to as a sponsor or petitioner, they will have to file Form I-130 Petition For Alien Relative alongside your Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence. Luckily, the USCIS website has a page that provides a detailed checklist for various eligibility categories. Prior to submitting an application to register for permanent residency, it would be a great idea to go through the page to find out the list of documentation required for your eligibility category.
Adjustment Of Status Summary
Regardless of your eligibility category, the adjustment of the status process is pretty much the same. Here’s a summary of each step from the beginning to the end.
Identifying Your Eligibility
Refer to the green card eligibility categories explained above to establish your eligibility.
If your eligibility category requires a sponsor, refer to the forms mentioned above to choose the most suitable.
File The Petition
After filing your application, you may have to wait for several months to even a year depending on your individual situation. If your application has been granted by the USCIS, you can check the U.S. Department of State website to find out if a visa is available for your category.
If you are an immediate family member of a U.S. citizen, however, you do not have to wait till a visa is available after your status adjustment petition has been approved. The wait times only apply to applicants based on other categories.
Filing To Adjust Status
Once your petition has been approved and a visa is available for your eligibility category, you can proceed to file Form I-485. It is worth noting that if you are an immediate family member of a U.S. citizen, you do not need to file Form I-130 and Form I-485 separately; they can be filed together at the same time in what is commonly known as concurrent filing.
You may also file Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization), which allows you to legally work in the United States as your AOS is being processed, and I-131 (Application for Travel Document), which allows you to work and travel freely while waiting for a response from the USCIS regarding your application.
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Read more | Form I-131 Processing Time
Upon receiving your Form I-485, the USCIS will schedule a biometrics appointment. You will be notified about the date, time, and location of your appointment, where your fingerprints and signature will be taken.
Green Card Interview
Depending on the information you provide in your application, you may be required to attend an in-person green card interview with a USCIS officer. The officer will ask you questions about your application to establish its authenticity and your eligibility.
If your application is approved, you will receive an approval notice via mail. Months later, you will receive your green card, which grants you permanent residency in the United States.
Need For Additional Documentation
If the USCIS decides that you need to provide additional information regarding your application, you will receive this request via mail. It is usually known as RFE (Request For Evidence). This request should be processed as soon as possible to avoid further delays.
Checking Your Case Status Online
You can track the status of your immigration petition online using the Case Status Online tool available on the USCIS website. For this to work, you must have the receipt number that was sent to you by the USCIS upon receiving your application.
Green Card Application Processing Times
There is no standard processing time for your green card application; it all depends on your situation. For example, if you are filing for a marriage-based green card, the process could take anywhere between 10 to 13 months. However, if you are married to a green card holder, the process usually takes between 29 to 38 months.
The best way to find out the estimated processing time for your specific situation is by using the Processing Times tool provided on the USCIS website. You simply need to enter the type of form and select the nearest USCIS Field Office or Service Center.
Adjustment Of Status Cost
The exact cost of adjusting status varies depending on your eligibility category and other additional factors. For example, your age may determine the final cost of your Form I-485 application.
The USCIS website has a Fee Calculator tool that you may use to establish the exact fee for your application. You may be required to provide additional details about your application such as your age and eligibility category to find out the filing fee.
What To Do After You Get A United States Green Card
Understandably, it is exciting to get a green card. However, you should always bear in mind that there are certain requirements that should be followed in order to maintain good standing with the immigration authorities.
For example, the U.S. government may revoke the green card if it has been established that the applicant obtained it through fraud, or has committed a serious crime. Also, if you abandon your status, meaning you have lived outside the United States for more than a year without getting an advance parole travel document from the authorities, your permanent resident card may be revoked.
Even though it is optional, you may decide to apply for citizenship years after getting your green card. The exact time to apply for citizenship varies depending on the terms of your green card. For example, for a marriage-based green card, you can file to become a citizen three years after adjustment of status. However, for this to happen, you must stay married and living with the U.S. citizen spouse the whole time.
The process of becoming a United States citizen through a green card is known as naturalization. The USCIS website has everything you need to know about this process, including the forms to file, information required, eligibility, and so much more.
The process of getting a green card can be quite confusing for new applicants. To increase your chances of getting the permanent resident card, you may consider contacting a professional immigration attorney from a reputable law firm. An immigration attorney can review your immigration paperwork to help you understand what is required from you, and also confirm if there are any factors that may affect your chances of becoming a permanent resident of the United States.
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