One Step Process
Certain foreign nationals are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) while inside the United States. Immediate relatives are generally allowed to apply for permanent residence on Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, at the same time their U.S. citizen petitioner files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This is called concurrent filing. Some of the benefits of this one-step green card process is most applicants are able to obtain Work Authorization and Travel Documents within ninety (90) days of application. Travel Documents, with certain important exceptions, allow applicants to leave and re-enter the U.S. without the need to apply for any type of visa at the U.S. Embassies or Consulates abroad. If you would like to find out whether you may benefit from applying for a Travel Document or whether you should or should not use it, please contact us.
Two Step Process
In certain instances it may be advisable for the U.S. citizen petition to file I-130 Petition for Alien Relative first, and then to file I-485 application for Adjustment of Status. In these cases, it is not necessary to wait until I-130 petition is approved, but a copy of Form I-797, Notice of Action, that shows the Form I-130 petition is either pending or approved, must be filed with I-485 Adjustment of Status application.
- Step One – U.S. citizen immediate relative files the Form I-130 for foreign national immediate relative.
- Step Two – After USCIS issues Form I-797, Notice of Action, showing that the Form I-130 has either been received by USCIS or approved, foreign national immediate relative files Form I-485, Adjustment of Status application.
Adjustment of Status
Under certain conditions, the law allows eligible applicants to change their status from nonimmigrant (such as B-1/B-2, F-1, H-1B, L-1, etc.) to immigrant (Green Card), if the applicant was inspected and admitted or paroled into the U.S. This process is commonly knows as adjustment of status. It is not as straight-forward as it may seem, however. There are many reasons why an applicant may be ineligible for adjustment of status, including overstays and those who worked without authorization. On the other hand, there are exceptions allowing certain categories of applicants to benefit from adjustment of status process, despite what may seem to be a ground for ineligibility.
The most important benefit of Adjustment of Status is the ability to get permanent resident status (a Green Card) without having to return to home country to complete visa processing.
Step 1. File the Immigrant Petition
Most applicants (with a notable exception for the humanitarian programs) will require an Immigrant Petition to be filed (and some approved) before an Adjustment of Status application can be filed. Depending on the category, a relative or employer must file the immigrant petition. In many instances concerning immediate relatives and other categories, where immigrant visa number is immediately available to the foreign national, both the immigrant visa petition and the adjustment of status application can be filed at the same time. Form more information on this subject, please see our Concurrent Filing page. Concurrent filing has many advantages, not the least of which is the ability to obtain Employment and Travel Authorization in the very beginning of the immigrant visa (green card) process.
Step 2. File the Adjustment of Status Application
Adjustment of status application is normally filed on Form I-485. This application must be filed while the applicant is physically present in the U.S. Depending on the category in which the application filed, there may be voluminous supporting documents required to be filed along with the Adjustment of Status application. In most cases, form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, duly completed and signed by a designated physician. Additionally, most applications will require an Affidavit of Support signed by the petitioner or a third party, with documentation showing the requisite level of income or assets. Once you file your Adjustment of Status application, you will receive receipt notices from USCIS. These notices contain very important information regarding your application – your receipt number and the filing date.
Step 3. Attend Biometrics Appointment
After you receive the receipt notices, you will be notified to appear at an Application Support Center to have your picture and signature taken, as well as to be fingerprinted. This is necessary to run security clearances (including criminal background check). It is very important to disclose to your attorney all convictions and all arrests (even those that did not result in a conviction or were expunged from your record).
Step 4. Interview
Not all Adjustment of Status applications require an interview, but many do. If you filed an Adjustment of Status application based on an I-130 petition filed by your spouse, you most definitely should expect to receive a Interview Notice. This notice will specify the date and time of your appointment and the address of the USCIS office where you are requested to appear. You must appear at your interview or have it rescheduled before the interview date. In most cases, failure to do either of these things may result in a denial of your application. You must bring originals of all documentation submitted with your application including passports, marriage and birth certificates, official travel documents, and Form I-94 (even if they are no longer valid).