Adjustment of Status is the process one may use in order to obtain lawful permanent status when present in the United States. This is also known as a Green Card.
Adjustment of Status allows for one to acquire their Green Card without having to leave the U.S. and return to their home country to complete visa processing. For those who are outside of the United States, your visa must be obtained abroad, through consular processing.
Course of Action for Adjustment of Status
1. Establish whether you are eligible to apply for a Green Card
Immigration law in the United States provides numerous ways for people to apply for their Green Card. Depending on the immigrant category you are applying under (Eb1, Eb2…), the eligibility requirements for Adjustment of Status will vary.
In order to begin your application process, you must first determine which of the specific immigrant categories pertain to you. Contact an immigration attorney to establish if you qualify for any category to apply for a green card.
2. Yourself or someone else must file an immigrant petition for you (if applicable)
There are two forms that the majority of people who apply for a Green Card will complete – an immigration petition and a Green Card application. Typically, someone other than yourself must file the immigrant petition for you. This is referred to as sponsoring or petitioning for you; however, there are a few select forms you may be eligible to file by yourself. The following are the most common USCIS forms filed by sponsors or self-petitioners:
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
- Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
- Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition
- Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal
Other petitions include:
- Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
- Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur
- Form I-918, Petition of U Nonimmigrant Status
- Form I-929, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant
Majority of the categories listed above require that you possess an approved immigrant petition prior to filing Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status).
There are some categories that may allow the filing of your Form I-485 at the same time as the immigrant petition is filed or while the immigrant petition is pending. This is known as “concert filing” more information can be found on our webpage for your specific eligibility category.
Some of the Green Card categories do not require an existing immigrant petition (Cuban Adjustment Act, for example). To determine whether an immigrant petition is necessary or not for your category, contact an experienced immigration attorney.
3. Review the visa availability
As a general rule, until a visa is available in your category, you may not file your Form I-485. More information on visa availability can be found at the the Visa Availability and Priority Dates page of USCIS.gov, the Adjustment of Status Filing Charts, and the Department of State website to view the Visa Bulletin.
4. Filing Form I-485
You can only file I-485 form if you are in the United States and meet the eligibility requirements for Adjustment Status. There are many documents you must submit along with your application and having your package prepared properly is essential to receiving your application’s timely approval.
To file Form I-485, please consult and hire an experienced immigration attorney to assist with this delicate and convoluted process.
5. Attend your Application Support Center appointment
When you have filed your Form I-485, USCIS will mail you a notice for your biometrics services appointment at a local Application Support Center (ASC). At this appointment, you will need to provide your fingerprints, photograph, as well as a possible signature. The notice USCIS sends will include the date, time and location of your ASC appointment.
Your biometrics will be used to verify your identity and conduct the required background and security checks. At your appointment, you will be requested to sign an acknowledgment that certifies you reviewed all information in your application, and that said information was accurate, honest and complete at the time of your filing.
Most recently, USCIS has been reusing biometrics collected in the past 5 years to avoid unnecessary visits to the ASC. You will receive a letter stating that your previous biometrics data was used to establish your current eligibility for this application process and that you do not need to submit new biometrics.
Attention: USCIS may deny your Form I-485 if you do not sign the acknowledgement or if you do not attend your ASC appointment without properly notifying USCIS and requesting a rescheduling.
6. Attend your interview (if applicable)
After submitting your I-485 application, USCIS officials will review your case and decide whether an interview is necessary. If USCIS decides to schedule you for an interview, you will be required to appear at a USCIS office and answer questions while under oath or affirmation regarding your submitted form I-485. Once again, USCIS will mail you a notice including the date, time and location of your scheduled interview.
When you attend your interview with USCIS (accompanied by the family member who filed the immigrant petition for you, if applicable), you must bring with you originals of all biographical documentation submitted with your Form I-485 application. Regardless if they are expired or current, these originals include passports, both certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, military cards, official travel documents, etc.
7. Respond to Request for Additional Evidence (if applicable)
After having completed the steps above, it is possible USCIS will send you a request for additional evidence (RFE) if:
- You did not submit all the required evidence;
- The evidence you submitted is no longer valid;
- The information originally provided is out of date or
- The officer needs more information to determine your eligibility.
The request will indicate what evidence is needed. The request will also tell you where to send the evidence and the date by which you must respond to the request.
*Please note that the date by which to respond is when USCIS receives your answer, so it is important you file your reply a few days before the due date to avoid a no-answer denial. If you do not respond to the request fully within required time, the officer will most likely deny your Form I-485.
It is important to understand that not all applicants receive a request for additional evidence, but many do. Bringing additional and updated documents to your interview may help to avoid RFEs.
8. Check the status of your case
To check your cases’ status, you can see check your case status online or call the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283. For those who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability: TTY 800-767-1833.
You can also use USCIS’s authomated assistant to answer many of your questions. Be prepared to provide the USCIS representative with specific information about your application, such as your receipt number, A-Number, name, and date of birth.
9. Receive your decision
Once USCIS makes a decision on your application, you will receive a written decision notice.
If USCIS approves your application, generally, you will receive an approval notice stating: “Welcome to the United States of America” before you receive your actual Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) much later.
If they deny your application, the decision notice you receive will tell you the reason(s) why they denied your application and whether you can appeal their decision.
USCIS also may decide to issue a Notice Intent to Deny (NOID) which would provide reasons as to why USCIS is considering to deny your case and what information they are missing in order to reconsider their decision. If you received a NOID or RFE and you have not yet hired an attorney to assist in your case, this is the last chance to receive assistance to save your case and the funds you paid to USCIS for your process.
If your case is denied, in general, you cannot appeal USCIS’ decision to deny an adjustment of status application. However, you may be eligible to file a motion to reopen or reconsider even cannot appeal the denial.
However, the appeal is a long and dreadful process, hence, hiring an experienced immigration attorney to assist in your case may prevent you from experiencing a USCIS denial, subsequent expense and lost time fighting an appeal to USCIS’ denial of your case.