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Understanding the Adjustment of Status Process

Obtaining Lawful Permanent Residency Through Adjustment of Status

The United States offers a path to permanent residency for individuals who are currently in the country with valid nonimmigrant status. This process, known as adjustment of status, allows you to apply for a green card without having to return to your home country.

There are two primary avenues for obtaining a green card: adjustment of status and consular processing. Adjustment of status is applicable to individuals already located in the United States, whereas consular processing is for those applying from abroad. While the requirements for acquiring permanent resident status are identical for both options, this article will delve specifically into adjustment of status.

Understanding Adjustment of Status

Adjustment of status streamlines the green card application process for eligible foreign nationals who are currently in the United States. It eliminates the need to depart the country and attend an interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home nation.

There are several advantages associated with applying for a green card through adjustment of status. These include:

  • Convenience: You can remain in the United States throughout the application process.

  • Work Authorization: You are authorized to apply for employment authorization to legally work in the United States while your green card application is pending.

  • Travel Authorization: In certain situations, you may be eligible to apply for advance parole, permitting temporary travel outside the United States and returning to resume your green card application process.

Eligibility for Adjustment of Status

To be eligible for adjustment of status, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Entered the U.S. lawfully, such as entering with a valid nonimmigrant visa, such as H-1B (specialty occupation), L-1 (intracompany transfer), B-1/B-2 (Visitor), or F-1 (student).

  • Maintain valid nonimmigrant status up until the date the Adjustment of Status application was filed;

  • Have a qualifying immigrant visa petition filed on your behalf by a U.S. citizen spouse, parent, child, employer, or another eligible petitioner.

  • Be admissible to the United States. This entails meeting specific health-related requirements,  having a background clear of certain criminal and immigration violations, and being a person of good moral character 

Important Considerations for Those Without Valid Nonimmigrant Status

In most cases, being unlawfully present in the United States (having overstayed a visa) makes you ineligible to adjust status. However, an exception exists for spouses, parents, and unmarried children under age 21 of U.S. citizens. For example, if you entered the United States legally with a valid visa or visa waiver program (e.g., ESTA), then married a U.S. citizen after your authorized stay expired, you may still be eligible to adjust your status through marriage. 

Individuals who entered the United States without proper documents or permission are not eligible to directly adjust their status through Adjustment of Status (AOS) from within the United States. This is because AOS requires applicants to be inspected and admitted or paroled into the U.S. at a port of entry with a valid visa. Entering without inspection or overstaying a visa violates immigration laws and makes most applicants ineligible for this process.

If an undocumented immigrant marries a U.S. citizen or Legal Permanent Resident, they may be eligible to adjust status through consular processing if they apply for and are granted a Waiver of Unlawful Presence. This process involves leaving the U.S. to apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad. There can be significant risks and wait times associated with this approach. Consulting with our attorney is strongly recommended.

The Adjustment of Status Process

The adjustment of status process generally involves the following steps:

  1. Form I-130 Petition Filing: Your U.S. citizen sponsor must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

  2. Priority Date Establishment: Upon USCIS approval of Form I-130, a priority date is established. This date determines your place in line for an immigrant visa, as there are yearly limitations on the number of visas issued in each visa category.

  3. Form I-485 Application Submission: Once your priority date becomes current (meaning visa numbers are available in your category), you can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Note that an immigrant visa is always available for spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21 of US citizens.

  4. Biometrics Appointment: You will be scheduled to provide fingerprints, photographs, and a signature for background checks.

  5. Interview: You may be required to attend an interview with a USCIS officer to discuss your application and eligibility.

  6. Green Card Approval: If your application is approved, you will receive a green card, formally known as a Permanent Resident Card.

Concurrent Filing: A Potential Expedient Approach

For qualifying family members already physically present in the US with a valid non-immigrant visa, "concurrent filing" presents a strategic opportunity. This allows for the simultaneous submission of Form I-130 (establishing the relationship) and Form I-485 (application for adjustment of status to permanent resident). Consulting with our immigration attorney is recommended to determine eligibility for concurrent filing and explore potential time-saving benefits.

Consult with Tran Flores Law

The immigration legal landscape is complex, and navigating the adjustment of status process can be challenging. This article provides a general overview, but it's crucial to seek guidance from a qualified immigration attorney to discuss your specific circumstances. Our attorney can:

  • Assess your eligibility: We will thoroughly evaluate your situation to determine if you qualify for adjustment of status, considering factors like your visa type, entry status, and any potential overstays.

  • Navigate complex situations: If your case involves intricacies like overstays, waivers, or previous immigration applications, we can provide expert advice and representation throughout the process.

  • Advise on the most efficient approach: We can guide you on whether concurrent filing is an option and recommend strategies to expedite your green card application if possible.

  • Prepare and file your application: We can ensure your application is complete, accurate, and meets all USCIS requirements, increasing your chances of approval.

  • Represent you at your interview: If required, our attorney can attend your interview with USCIS and advocate on your behalf.

Consulting with an immigration attorney is an investment in your future. We can significantly increase your chances of a successful adjustment of status application and permanent residency in the United States. Contact us now at (512) 894-9984 to schedule a consultation.


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