Adjustment of status (AOS) is the procedure in which an immigrant inside the United States applies to become a permanent resident and obtain a green card. Becoming a green card holder means a significant increase in your rights and benefits in the United States.
For some, obtaining permanent residency is a stepping stone on the path to U.S. citizenship, while for others, a green card is the final goal of their immigration to the United States. In this ultimate guide, we will review the process for obtaining a green card through adjustment of status and the benefits it offers.
What Is Adjustment of Status?
Adjustment of status is the process where a person changes their status from nonimmigrant to permanent resident. You may be eligible for AOS if you entered the United States lawfully and meet certain conditions.
Adjustment of status is one of the two options when seeking a green card, along with consular processing. The big difference between AOS and consular processing is that AOS is typically how you can get your green card if you are already in the United States, whereas consular processing is the procedure for those seeking permanent residency while outside the country.
What Form Is Required for Adjustment of Status?
When applying to adjust your status, you must file Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This adjustment of status form must be completed by the applicant, not their sponsor. After completing Form I-485, you must file it with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Who Should Apply for a Green Card Through Adjustment of Status?
To be eligible for adjustment of status, you must meet certain requirements. In most cases, immediate family members, asylees, refugees, and certain people in the country for employment purposes are all eligible to adjust their status to permanent residents as long as they meet the other eligibility requirements. To apply you must:
- Be physically present in the United States
- Have a lawful immigration status
- Get approval of Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative or Form I-140: Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, unless you are filing concurrently
- Have received your visa number for your green card application if you are in a preference category
- Get married while your visa is still valid if in the country on a K-1 fiancé visa
- Wait at least one year if in the country as a refugee or asylum seeker
- Be eligible for adjustment of status, under Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
- Meet the specific additional eligibility requirements for the type of green card for which you are applying
Who Should Not Apply for Green Card Through Adjustment of Status?
There are many things that can bar a person from eligibility to obtain a green card through adjustment of status. You will not be able to apply for adjustment of status with USCIS if you:
- Are not physically present in the United States
- Do not currently maintain a lawful immigrant status
- Entered the U.S. unlawfully
- Are currently in deportation proceedings
- Entered the U.S on a K-1 fiancé visa but failed to marry before the visa expired
- Are the dependent of a K-1 fiancé visa holder who did not get married before their visa expired
- Are a conditional permanent resident
- Entered the U.S. in transit, without a visa
- Entered the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
- Are employed in the U.S. without authorization from USCIS
- Are a J1 or J2 exchange visitor required to comply with the two-year foreign residence requirement and have not received a waiver for that requirement
- Have a Type A visa diplomatic status
- Are an E1 treaty trader or E2 treaty investor
- Have a Type G non-i-immigrant visa as a representative for an international organization
Benefits of Adjustment of Status
There are many benefits to obtaining permanent residency through adjustment of status. The perks of applying for AOS include:
- The ability to maintain valid status in the United States as your application for adjustment of status is being processed
- The option to file your adjustment of status application concurrently with an immediate relative green card petition and employment-based first, second, and third preference categories
- The ability to apply for an employment authorization document that will allow you to work in the United States while your application for permanent resident status is being processed
- The option of appealing if your adjustment of status application gets denied
Adjustment of Status Requirements
You can apply for adjustment of status after your immigration visa petition has been approved by USCIS, as long as a visa number is available. You must also have lawful status when you first apply for AOS. However, it is okay if your visa expires before the adjustment of status process is complete.
There is an exception to the rule of needing to maintain lawful standing until you apply for adjustment of status, and that is if you are adjusting your status through marriage to a United States citizen.
In this case, you can still apply as long as you originally entered the U.S. in a lawful manner and you do not leave the country between the time your lawful standing expires and the time you apply for AOS.
If you are applying for a family-based green card but are not an immediate family member or are applying through employment, you will have to wait for a green card to become available. Immediate family members do not face this waiting period. Depending on the country you are immigrating from, the wait time could be many years.
Adjustment of Status Application Process
When applying for an adjustment of status, you will have to go through several steps. The adjustment of status process can be long even when everything goes smoothly. Because of this, it is critical that you file all required paperwork correctly and on time to avoid unnecessary delays.
File the Application
Before you can file your application, you must check your green card eligibility. If you meet all the requirements, your sponsor will then need to file one of the following forms, depending on the manner through which you are seeking adjustment of status:
- Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative for a family-based green card
- Form I-140: Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers for an employment-based green card
- Form I-730: Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition for a humanitarian-based application
Related Article: Check our comprehensive guide on the Form I-485 checklist
After this application has been filed, you will wait for USCIS to approve your petition. This can take anywhere from several months to well over a year. Once your application has been approved, you will have to check the availability of your green card category.
If you are applying for a green card through marriage, you will not have to worry about this since there is no cap on the number of green cards available for these applicants. In fact, those applying for marriage-based green cards can file their adjustment of status application concurrently with Form I-130.
When a green card is available, you can file Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. At this time, you can also choose to file Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization to allow you to work, while your application is being processed or Form I-131: Application for Travel Document to allow you to travel.
Attend Biometrics Appointment
After your application has been received by USCIS, they will send you confirmation of the receipt of your application, along with a case number that you can use to track the status of your application online. After this, USCIS will send you information about your scheduled biometrics appointment, including the date, time, and location.
At your biometrics appointment, your fingerprints, picture, and signature will be taken.
Attend Green Card Interview
In most cases, you will then need to attend a green card interview. You will need to bring along the supporting documents requested in the interview notice. During the interview, you will be placed under oath and asked various questions related to your presence in the country and your personal history, which will be checked against the answers you provided on your application.
In some cases, USCIS will make a formal request through the mail for additional evidence after your interview. They may also request a follow-up interview in certain situations.
Receive Your Green Card
The adjustment of status processing time can vary significantly depending on the type of green card you are applying for, if everything was filled out correctly, and whether any follow-up information is needed. Eventually, you will receive a notice of the decision to either approve or deny your application. If approved, you will then receive your green card in the mail.
Adjustment of Status Fee
You will have to pay an adjustment of status fee when filing Form I-485. This is one of the most expensive immigration filing fees. For most applicants, the filing fee is $1,140 for Form I-485, along with an $85 biometrics fee. The biometrics fee is waived if you are under age 14 or over age 78.
Note that there will also be a fee when filing the initial petition. For Form I-130, the filing fee is typically $535.
How Long Does Adjustment of Status Take?
The adjustment of status timeline can vary drastically depending on many factors. The longest wait time is typically the time it takes for a green card to become available after submitting your original petition. While there is no wait time for this part of the process for those applying for a marriage-based green card, the timeline can be decades for certain applicants.
After a green card does become available, the process of getting your adjustment of status can be as short as six months. However, depending on the backlog of the USCIS office processing your application along with whether you have made any mistakes on your application, it can still take well over a year to get your green card.
How to Check the Status of Your Application
After USCIS receives your application, they will send you a notice of receipt, which will have a case number on it that you can enter on the USCIS website. Here you can view any updates to the status of your green card application.
What Happens After the Change of Status?
Once your change of status is complete, you will receive your green card in the mail. A green card denotes your standing as a lawful permanent resident. At this point, you will have all the rights of a permanent resident including the right to work and live in the United States, travel overseas and return to the country, and work towards becoming a United States citizen.
Most people will receive a green card valid for 10 years that can be renewed indefinitely. However, some green card recipients, like those changing their immigration standing through marriage after a recent wedding will receive a conditional green card, valid for two years. Near the end of the validity period, you can apply for a 10-year card as long as you are still eligible.
After three to five years as a green card holder, you will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship as long as you have not committed any offenses that invalidate your eligibility.
See Also: What Happens After Filing Form I-485
There are some things you need to keep in mind when applying for an adjustment of status. One of these is the 90-day rule. The 90-day rule exists to prevent potentially eligible green card applicants from coming to the United States on a nonimmigrant visa with the intention of abusing the system, and applying to immigrate to the United States.
Some temporary visas are dual intent, which gives the visa holder the option to adjust their status, and move to the United States permanently. However, most temporary visas are single intent. If you apply for adjustment of status while in the country on one of these visas, not only could your application be rejected, but your temporary visa could be revoked as well.
If you are applying for AOS within 90 days of entering the country on a temporary visa, you will trigger the 90-day rule which will bring your application under intense scrutiny to see whether you misrepresented yourself when entering the country. A USCIS officer can investigate your intent even if you apply after 90 days. However, you are far less likely to run into trouble.
Another thing to be mindful of during the adjustment of status process is foreign travel. It is critical to request an advance parole travel document if you need to travel abroad while your application is in progress. Otherwise, the U.S. government will assume that you have chosen to abandon your application, and you will have to start over.
What Happens if My Adjustment of Status Application Is Denied?
If your adjustment of status application gets denied, you will receive a notice from USCIS telling you the reason we denied your application. You will also receive information about whether or not you can appeal the decision. In most cases, appealing a decision to deny an adjustment of status application is not permitted.
However, you may be able to file a motion to reopen or reconsider the decision. This can be done using Form I-290B: Notice of Appeal or Motion. Depending on the reason your adjustment of status application was denied, you may be able to apply for a green card again.
In other cases, though, you will not be able to reapply. In these situations, if the visa through which you were in the United States has expired, your lawful immigration status will expire, and you will need to make plans to leave the country as soon as possible so that you don’t accrue unlawful presence in the country.
Don’t Let Little Mistakes Cause Big Problems
When you apply for adjustment of status, you could be in for a long wait to get your green card. You don’t want to add wait time by making avoidable mistakes. An immigration solutions company like ImmigrationDirect can help you ensure that all your paperwork is filed correctly and on time so that you can get your adjustment of status completed as quickly as possible.
Don’t delay the process of getting your green card any longer than necessary. Contact us today to get started on your adjustment of status application. We can help guide you through every step of the process and minimize the chances that your green card will be rejected.