What are the Requirements for Adjustment of Status?

American flag waving in the air

If you are eligible for a green card, you might be able to apply for lawful permanent residency in the United States.

The process of applying for a green card inside the U.S is called “Adjustment of status.” The eligibility requirements for adjustment of status depends on the immigrant category you are applying under. 

In general, to be eligible for a green card without returning to your home country, you must generally comply with the following requirements*:

  • You must be eligible for a green card – this means that you have someone that can petition you (a family member or an employer), or that you fall within another eligibility category (for examples: victims of abuse, Asylees, refugees, special immigrants, and more).

Related: Lost or Stolen Green Card: What To Do

  • Visa available – In general, there must be a visa available for you before you can apply for a Green Card. In some categories, such as “immediate relatives,” visas are always available, while there is a limited number in others. Priority dates are given to immigrants waiting in line to get an immigrant visa and determine when a visa becomes available.

Related: Fiancé Visa vs. Marriage-Based Green Card: What’s The Difference?

  • Entered the U.S with permission after an inspection by border agents – In general, you must have entered with permission (usually with a visa) to adjust your status in the U.S. This process is the general rule; however, it does not apply to every type of immigrant category. Know that your category might exempt you from this requirement.
  • Maintaining legal status in the U.S – Generally, you must be maintaining valid status in the U.S. to apply for your green card in the U.S. Please note that immediate relatives are exempt from this requirement!

*These are the general requirements and exceptions to these requirements exist in many cases (for example- in the immediate relative category).

To begin your application for your Adjustment of Status, you will have to fill out Form I-485, “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status” with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You can find the Form I-485 here: https://www.uscis.gov/i-485

Curious to learn more about the Eligibility Criteria for Citizenship? Check more information here

9 Steps for Adjustment of Status

Person signing legal papers

Many people who are sponsored for permanent residency prefer to adjust their status because they do not want to be away from their loved ones or employment in the U.S. 

The steps for changing your status are below:

1) Determine eligibility

To adjust your status, you must be eligible for permanent residency. Most people obtain a Green Card through work or family sponsorship. You must also be physically present in the U.S. and have lawfully entered, which generally means you entered with a visa. You cannot have a disqualifying condition, such as having been convicted of a serious crime or having certain underlying health conditions.

Related: How Can I Petition my Family Member for a Green Card?

2) File an immigrant petition

You have to have an immigrant petition filed on your behalf. In most cases, this is either Form I-130 (family sponsorship) or Form I-140 (employer sponsorship). However, there are other choices, such as those for asylees, refugees, entrepreneurs, and crime victims.

3) Check availability of visa

Before filing Form I-485, you must check and see if a visa is available. There is a number limit on Green Card visas issued per year by category and country of origin, causing a backlog. Therefore, some applicants must wait for a year or more (sometimes more than 20!) before a visa becomes available. You should consult the visa bulletin {link to blog article} to determine if a visa is currently available.  

4) File Form I-485

Once a visa is available, you will need to file Form I-485. Some visa categories have no wait, meaning that you can file Form I-485 concurrently (simultaneously) with Form I-130 or I-140. You will need to turn in supporting documentation with your application.      

5) Attend your appointment with the Application Support Center

Once you file Form I-485, you will receive a notice to appear at your local Application Support Center. There, you will be fingerprinted, photographed, and they will obtain your signature. The purpose of this biometric data is for a background check.

6) Show up for your interview (if required)

Two woman having an interview

Once your case is nearing completion, you will likely receive a notice to appear for an interview at a USCIS field office. Interviews are not always required, but USCIS has started to require them much more frequently. You will need to bring the documents you submitted with your application, and you should be prepared to answer questions related to your eligibility.

Related: Immigration Interview Questions You Need To Know

7) Provide additional evidence (if requested)

USCIS may request additional evidence about your case, either by issuing a Request for Evidence or making the request at the interview. This request will occur if you did not submit all of the required evidence, the evidence you presented is no longer valid, or if the USCIS officer needs more information to determine your eligibility.  

8) Look for your case status

You can check your case’s progress by going to the USCIS case status tracker web page and entering your Form I-485 receipt number. You can access this information by calling the USCIS contact center. Additionally, you can estimate the processing time by going to the Check Case Processing Times page on the USCIS website.

9) Get a decision

USCIS will send you either an approval or denial notice once they decide your case. If they approve your application, you will receive your Green Card in the mail a short time later. If they deny your application, the denial notice will explain why.

If you have questions about the Adjustment of Status process, our office would love to assist you. We are committed to supporting families to navigate the often-complex landscape of U.S. immigration law. 

Need more of a 1:1 appointment to discuss your Adjustment of Status? Schedule a consultation, call Brudner Law’s office today, or contact us online.

If you have questions about the Adjustment of Status process, our office would love to assist you. We are committed to helping families navigate the often-complex landscape of U.S. immigration law. To schedule a consultation, call our office today or contact us online.