What is Adjustment of Status?
What does adjustment of status mean in U.S. immigration, and is it something you should do?
This guide explains Adjustment of Status petitions and more.
If you’re like many immigrants, you’ve heard of an adjustment of status – but do you know what it does, who can use it, and why a person may need it? This guide to adjustment of status petitions explains everything you need to know about this very common procedure in U.S. immigration.
What is Adjustment of Status?
Adjustment of status is the process of applying for a green card from within the United States. If you apply for a green card from outside the U.S., you use consular processing (which we explain in the following section). Completing the adjustment of status petition asks the U.S. government to change your immigration status to lawful permanent resident. When you’re a lawful permanent resident, you get a green card – and a green card allows you to live and work anywhere you want in the U.S., as well as travel outside the U.S. as long as you intend to retain your residence here.
What About Consular Processing?
Consular processing is the process of applying for lawful permanent residency from outside the United States. Lawful permanent residency gets you a green card, which enables you to live and work anywhere you want in the United States.
Who Needs to Adjust Status?
Only people who wish to get a green card in the United States must adjust their status. You never have to adjust your status if you don’t want to. And once you’re a green card holder, which means you’re a lawful permanent resident, you never have to adjust it again – though you can, after a certain amount of time has passed, become a U.S. citizen if you wish (and if USCIS approves your naturalization petition).
You must fall into one of these categories to adjust your immigration status and apply for a green card:
- You qualify for a family based green card because you’re the spouse, child, parent or sibling (or other close relative, such as stepchild) of a U.S. citizen, or you’re the spouse, child or stepchild of a lawful permanent resident who has a valid green card.
- You qualify for an employment based green card because your employer is sponsoring you, or because you have special skills, talent or abilities that enable you to qualify for one, or you’re a qualified investor.
- You fall into a special category, such as a refugee or asylee (or you are part of another humanitarian program), you got a spot in the diversity lottery, or fall into another special category.
Who’s Eligible for Adjustment of Status?
You can only adjust your status if there is an immigrant visa immediately available to you. For example, you cannot use adjustment of status to get a green card if you fall into a family preference category rather than an immediate family member classification. Additionally, you must be physically present in the United States when you file your adjustment of status application (and you must remain in the U.S. while the process is in the works). You must also have made lawful entry into the U.S.; you can’t use an adjustment of status petition if you entered the country unlawfully, without being granted permission or without valid documentation allowing you to do so.
If a visa is not available to you immediately (such as when you fall into a family preference category), you won’t use adjustment of status. You must take another approach, which your Austin immigration attorney can explain to you.
Applying for a Green Card Through Adjustment of Status
The only way to obtain a green card if you’re a visa holder in the United States is to file for an adjustment of status. Your attorney will fill out and file Form I-485 for you, which is the petition you need to send the U.S. government. You must also pay the filing fee, which varies based on the reason you’re filing the form (for example, the cost is lower if you’re filing it on behalf of a child who’s under the age of 14, and it’s free if you’re filing as a refugee). Some people have to pay a biometric services fee, as well – that’s a fee that USCIS charges for collecting your fingerprints and other biometric information.
How Long Does it Take to Adjust Your Status?
It usually takes between 8 and 14 months to get an adjustment of status based on a family relationship. You can remain in the United States with your family during the whole process.
Adjustment of Status FAQ
Check out these frequently asked questions about adjustment of status. If you don’t see the answer to your question here, please call our office and schedule a free consultation – we’ll be happy to give you the answers you need.
Do I Need an Adjustment of Status if My Spouse is a Lawful Permanent Resident?
If you want to get a green card, even if your spouse already has one, you must file an adjustment of status if you’re inside the United States. If you’re not in the United States, you likely need to work through consular processing. Your Austin immigration attorney can help you determine the best course of action in your case.
Where Do I File an Adjustment of Status Application?
Your attorney will file your adjustment of status application for you. However, if you’re doing it on your own and not working with an attorney, you can find out where to file your adjustment of status application on the USCIS website here.
My Spouse is a U.S. Citizen – Do I Have to Wait to File My I-485 Until After My I-130 is Approved?
If your spouse is a U.S. citizen, you can file Forms I-130 and I-485 at the same time, provided you’re both physically in the United States. If you are outside the United States, you should file your Form I-130 first – but you should talk to an Austin immigration attorney just to be sure.
How Long Do I Have to Wait After My Marriage to File for a Green Card if I Came to the U.S. on a Fiancé Visa?
If you came to the U.S. on a K visa to marry your spouse, and if you married your spouse within the required 90-day time frame, you don’t have to wait at all – you may file your adjustment of status immediately.
I Have Been Convicted of a Crime – Can I Still Adjust My Status?
You should consult with an attorney about filing a petition to adjust status if you’ve been convicted of a crime.
I’ve Been Granted Asylum – Can I Adjust My Status?
If you were granted asylum or came to the U.S. as a refugee, you can ask the government to adjust your status so that you can become a lawful permanent resident and get a green card.
Do You Need to Talk to an Austin Immigration Attorney About Adjustment of Status?
If you need to speak with an Austin immigration attorney about an adjustment of status petition, we’ll be happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. Call our office to schedule your free consultation now.