Can you apply for your Green Card from inside the United States or must you do it from outside the U.S? This is one of the most frequently asked questions we get at our office. The answer is that- It depends! There are two paths available. Applying for Adjustment of Status allows for your Green Card from inside the U.S. Most people prefer this option, but not everyone qualifies for it and for some people it is not the best choice. If you are not eligible for this option or choose not to go through it, you can receive your Green Card through consular processing, which means you will have a visa interview at a U.S. consulate.
What Exactly Is the Adjustment of Status Process?
Adjustment of Status, or AOS, is the process of applying for and receiving permanent U.S. residency. Unlike consular processing where you cannot enter the U.S. until they approve your Green Card, you will be able to wait inside the U.S. while your application is pending. In most cases, AOS applicants can receive permission to work and travel outside the U.S. while their case is pending. Because of these features, AOS is a widely used option for those who are eligible for it. However, not everyone is. You must meet these conditions to qualify:
- There must be an available visa for you. Even after the petition sponsored by your family member or employer is approved, there may be a waiting period before it becomes available.
- You are currently inside the U.S.
- You legally entered the U.S. (exceptions apply)
- You have maintained legal immigration status in the U.S (exceptions apply)
- You are admissible to the U.S., meaning you have no disqualifiers such as immigration violations, a criminal record or having certain diseases. There are exceptions to these rules, and you may qualify for a waiver under some circumstances.
Related: Green Card Renewals: A Simple Guide
How Can You Start Adjusting Your Status?
Before you start the AOS process, you should make sure that you are eligible to do so and that there is a visa available for you. Your immigration category and country of origin determine visa availability, as there are caps on the number of Green Cards issued each year with some cases having a higher priority than others. For example, there is no limit on the number of visas issued for spouses of U.S. citizens, but siblings can have more than a twenty year wait. A professional from Brazil might be immediately able to adjust their status, but a professional from India might have to wait more than ten years because of the high demand from that country. If a visa is immediately available, you can file your AOS application concurrently (at the same time) with the immigration petition filed by your sponsor. Otherwise, you must wait until a visa becomes available to you, which could go on for years.
What Documents Do You Need for Your Status Adjustment?
You must include supporting documentation with your AOS application. However, the actual evidence required can vary somewhat depending on the individual situation, and some items listed below will not apply to all applicants. Possible evidence includes:
- Two Passport-style photos
- Passport or other acceptable proof of identity
- Birth certificate
- Proof of lawful entry into the country, such as a stamped passport, visa, or Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record
- Documentation of eligibility such as a I-130 or I-140 immigrant petition or approval notice
- Marriage or divorce certificates
- Evidence of lawful maintenance of status in the U.S. such as an I-797 approval notice; I-94; Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status; Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status or passport page with admission stamp
- Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency and/or I-864, Affidavit of Support
- Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
- Certified Police and Court Records of Criminal Charges, Arrests, or Convictions
- Waiver of Inadmissibility – for those who are considered inadmissible but receive a waiver allowing their admission to the U.S.
Related: How to Read the Visa Bulletin
Which Application Should You Fill Out?
The document you will need to fill out is form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. You also want to complete forms I-765 to request permission to work while your case is pending and form I-131 to request permission to travel outside the U.S. while your case is pending. Other forms you will need to complete are based on your immigration category and personal circumstances. If filing concurrently, you will file form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers if you are being sponsored by an employer or I-130, Petition for Alien Relative if a family member is sponsoring you. You will file form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition if you fall into a humanitarian category.
What to learn more about the immigration process? Come visit our blog page at Brudner Law.
Verify Your Information with the USCIS Website
You will receive a receipt notice 2-6 weeks after you submit form I-485. This form includes a receipt number, which allows you to check your case status on the USCIS website. You can also find this information by calling the USCIS contact center. You can also look up your expected case processing time on the USCIS website. Depending on where you live, processing times can vary and your visa category but range from under one year to more than three.
Prepare for Your Adjustment Interview
Most likely, you will receive a notice to appear for an interview at a USCIS field office. Consultations are always required for family-sponsored cases and have become increasingly common for employer-sponsored cases. You need to bring the originals or copies of any documents you submitted with your application. Failure to obtain the necessary documents can delay your Green Card approval. It will help if you prepare to answer questions about your application and case. USCIS sometimes requests additional evidence either before or during your interview.
At Brudner Law, we have extensive experience guiding clients through Adjustment of Status. We can help you through the entire process by determining your eligibility, seeing if it is the best option for you, filing and preparing your application, and advising you on supporting documentation and preparing you for your interview. Give us a call today to set up a consultation about your case with an immigration lawyer and see how we can help you!
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