Adjustment of Status allows immigrants to receive their green cards

Adjustment Of Status: The Complete Guide

If you are an immigrant, you have heard of the Adjustment of Status process. This process can help you obtain a green card while remaining in the United States. Adjustment of Status is a standard procedure in the U.S. immigration process. Here is everything you need to know about this critical process. 

What Does an “Adjustment of Status” Mean?

Adjustment of Status (AOS) is the process of applying for a lawful permanent resident status (also known as a green card) while residing in the United States. During the Adjustment of Status process, you can stay in the United States while processing the application without returning to your home country. In some cases, AOS allows applicants to remain in the country even if their visa expires before the green card is approved. 

One alternative to AOS is called consular processing. With that, a person can apply for a green card from outside of the United States. Consular processing must be provided by the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate office. The applicant will have to remain outside the United States until the green card application is approved. 

These processes have their own application forms, timelines, supporting documents, and costs. However, the eligibility requirements for the green card are the same. Before you apply for either AOS or consular processing, find the one that will meet your circumstances.

Who Qualifies for an Adjustment of Status and What are The Requirements?

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Immigration laws provide individuals with numerous ways to apply for a green card. The Adjustment of Status requirements will vary depending on the immigration category. The first step in this process is determining which category is appropriate for your situation. These categories include:

  • Family: Applicants can qualify for a family-based green card as a child, parent, spouse, or other relative of a U.S. citizen or green cardholder. Green card holders cannot petition for as many family members as a U.S. citizen can.
  • Employment: Applicants can qualify for an employment-based green card with sponsorship from an employer. In some cases, the applicant can be granted a green card based on their own abilities and accomplishments. 
  • Other: Applicants can qualify for a green card through a diversity lottery or based on humanitarian grounds. 
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Adjustment of status can be granted for a few marriage visa types, such as:

  • F2A category where the spouse is a legal resident (or green card holder)
  • IR6/CR6 spouse with an accompanying IR7/CR7 child when the sponsor is a United States citizen 
  • CF1 spouse and CF2 child when the foreign spouse has a K fiance visa, and the spouse is a U.S. citizen

If you want to use the AOS, you must have a valid visa or be enrolled in the Visa Waiver Program for the most recent stay in the United States. These applicants must have a lawful admission to the U.S. when they first apply for AOS, even if the visa will expire during the application process. Additionally, certain family members of green card holders must also continue to maintain a lawful status the entire time they are in the United States and cannot work without authorization.

One exception to the rule about maintaining a lawful status and not working without authorization is applying for AOS as an immediate relative. An immediate relative is a parent, child (unmarried and under the age of 21), or spouse of a U.S. citizen. These applicants can use AOS with an overstayed visa and can have worked without authorization, as long as the individual entered the United States with a valid visa or waiver. 

The immigrant must also have a sponsor who meets certain income requirements in order to be eligible for adjustment of status. By default, the sponsor is always the petitioner (the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family member). If the petitioner does not meet the income requirements, the immigrant can have up to two “joint sponsors” whose income information can be used. Moreover, in some cases, the immigrant’s income can also be counted toward the income requirements.

How Long Does Adjustment of Status Take?

applicants need to meet certain requirements, such as a valid visa

Obtaining a green card through the Adjustment of Status is a slow process. The exact timeline will depend on your specific situation. For example, an AOS through marriage can take anywhere from 5 to 15 months if the spouse is a U.S. citizen, or it can be 5 to 36 months for a green card holder as a spouse. 

Adjustment of Status processing time will vary depending on that particular USCIS office’s processing times. Fortunately, you can check the application status through an online portal. If you want to cut down on your application processing time, file all of the correct paperwork,  accurately complete the applications, and provide all of the necessary supporting documentation. This will avoid a denial, a Notice of Intent to Deny and/or a Request for Evidence, all of which can slow down your case or make it so you have to start over. 

How Much Does it Cost to Undergo an Adjustment of Status?

There is a cost to complete the green card application through Adjustment of Status. First, you need to pay the fees associated with the initial application. You will need to pay $535 for an I-130 petition filing for this application. After the petition is approved, there is a separate $1,140 processing and $85 biometric fee for the I-485 green card application. However, those under 14 can file with the parent’s I-485s and pay only $995. The biometric fee is waived for these applicants. All fees are waived if the applicant is filing I-485 as a refugee.

Getting a Green Card Through Your Adjustment of Status

There are several steps in the Adjustment of Status green card application. First, you will need to check your green card eligibility. After that, you need to file the appropriate petition for your situation.

  • For a family green card, file the I-130 form
  • For an employment-based application, file the I-140 form
  • For a humanitarian application, file the I-730 form.

Then, the USCIS must grant the petition. The timeline can vary depending on whether you are an immediate relative or not, the green card availability, country of origin, and other specific circumstances. Once your I-130, I-140 or I-730 form is granted, you need to file an adjustment of status application. After receiving your application, the USCIS will send you information about your biometrics appointment. Eventually, you will be called for an in-person interview at the USCIS office closest to where you live. 

You may have to provide more documentation or need a follow-up interview, depending on the case. From this point, you will receive a decision denying or granting your application. You can expect the physical green card to be mailed to your address within a few weeks after your interview if your case is approved.  

Can I Stay in The U.S. With a Pending I-485?

aerial view of the San Diego coast line

You can stay in the United States with a pending I-485. You may want to file a request for an advance parole travel document or a work permit. With those documents, you can travel outside of the United States and work freely in the country as you wait for the decision on your AOS application. If you leave the United States while your I-485 is pending and you do not have an advance parole document, your case will be deemed abandoned.

What Happens After an Adjustment of Status?

After your adjustment of status has been approved, you can now work and live freely across the United States. Along with that, you can travel overseas and return with your green card. Plus, you now have a pathway to U.S. citizenship. If you adjusted status through a marriage that was less than two years old when you got your green card, you will have been issued a conditional green card for two years. This card will need to be upgraded to a full 10-year green card at the end of the two years. In order to get the 10-year green card, you have to file more paperwork with USCIS no later than 90 days before your green card expires and possibly attend another interview. 

You will need to apply for citizenship after being a green card holder for 3 to 5 years in some situations. To be eligible for citizenship, you must:

  • Not be convicted of certain crimes;
  • Pay your taxes
  • Meet physical presence and continuous residence requirements
  • Not leave the United States for extended periods without a re-entry permit
  • Unless you meet an exception, show a basic understanding of and proficiency in the English language and United States civics and history.

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