What is Adjustment of Status?
Adjustment of Status (AOS) is a process within the United States that allows certain foreign nationals who are already in the country to apply for lawful permanent residency, commonly known as a “green card,” without having to leave the U.S. to obtain the visa through a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. It’s an essential step for individuals who wish to transition from a temporary nonimmigrant status (such as a student or work visa) to permanent resident status.
The Adjustment of Status process is typically available to individuals who meet certain eligibility criteria and who fall under specific categories, such as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or certain employment-based categories. Here are some key points about the Adjustment of Status process:
- Eligibility Criteria: Eligibility criteria vary depending on the specific green card category. Common categories include family-sponsored and employment-based applications, as well as humanitarian categories like refugees and asylees.
- Application Filing: Applicants must file the appropriate forms and supporting documents with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to initiate the Adjustment of Status process. The primary form used for this purpose is Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
- Waiting Period: After filing the Adjustment of Status application, applicants generally need to wait for USCIS to process the application and conduct background checks. This waiting period can vary based on factors such as the category of the application and USCIS processing times.
- Biometrics Appointment: Applicants are usually required to attend a biometrics appointment, where they provide fingerprints, photographs, and other biographical information for background checks.
- Interview: In many cases, applicants are required to attend an in-person interview at a local USCIS office. The interview aims to verify the information provided in the application, assess the applicant’s eligibility, and ensure the authenticity of the relationship (if applicable).
- Medical Examination: Applicants are required to undergo a medical examination by a designated physician to ensure they meet the health requirements for permanent residency.
- Approval and Green Card Issuance: If the application is approved, the applicant will receive their green card in the mail. The green card signifies their legal permanent resident status, allowing them to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely.
It’s important to note that the Adjustment of Status process can be complex, and eligibility requirements and procedures may change over time. Additionally, some individuals may be ineligible for Adjustment of Status due to certain factors, such as immigration violations or criminal history. Consulting with an immigration attorney or other qualified immigration professionals is advisable when navigating the Adjustment of Status process to ensure accurate and up-to-date guidance tailored to your specific situation.
Adjustment of Status eligibility
Eligibility for Adjustment of Status (AOS) in the United States depends on various factors, including the category under which you are applying for permanent residency. Here are some common eligibility criteria for different AOS categories:
1. Family-Sponsored Categories:
- Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens: Spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of U.S. citizens are generally eligible for AOS.
- Family Preference Categories: Other family members, such as married children of U.S. citizens or siblings of adult U.S. citizens, may also be eligible, but there may be waiting periods due to visa availability.
2. Employment-Based Categories:
- Employment-Based Preference Categories: Individuals with employment-based immigrant visa petitions approved by USCIS may be eligible for AOS. This includes individuals with job offers in specific employment-based categories.
3. Diversity Visa Lottery Winners:
- Individuals selected through the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery program may be eligible to apply for AOS if they meet all other eligibility criteria.
4. Refugees and Asylees:
- Refugees and asylees who have been granted asylum or refugee status are eligible to apply for AOS one year after being granted asylum or entering the U.S. as a refugee.
5. Special Programs:
- Special programs, such as the Cuban Adjustment Act or the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), provide eligibility for specific groups of individuals from certain countries.
6. Other Categories:
- There are various other categories under which individuals might be eligible for AOS, including victims of certain crimes (U visa holders), individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and more.
General eligibility requirements for Adjustment of Status include:
- Being physically present in the United States.
- Having been inspected and admitted or paroled into the U.S., unless eligible for certain exceptions.
- Not having engaged in unauthorized employment or other violations of status.
- Being admissible to the U.S. (not having certain criminal convictions or immigration violations).
- Meeting specific requirements based on the visa category you are applying under.
It’s important to note that immigration laws and eligibility criteria can change, so it’s recommended to refer to the official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website or consult with an immigration attorney to ensure you have the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding your eligibility for Adjustment of Status.
How to apply for Adjustment of Status?
Applying for Adjustment of Status (AOS) involves several steps and requires careful attention to detail. Here is a general overview of the process:
- Determine Eligibility: Before applying for AOS, make sure you meet the eligibility criteria for the specific category under which you are applying (e.g., family-sponsored, employment-based, etc.).
- File Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status: The primary form used for AOS is Form I-485. You’ll need to complete and submit this form to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The form is available on the USCIS website.
- Gather Required Supporting Documents: Compile the necessary supporting documents, which may include but are not limited to:
- Passport-sized photos
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate (if applicable)
- Form I-130 approval notice (if applicable)
- Employment authorization documents (if applicable)
- Affidavit of Support (Form I-864)
- Medical examination results
- Pay the Filing Fee: Include the appropriate filing fee with your Form I-485 submission. The fee amount varies based on the applicant’s age and category. Fee waivers might be available for certain categories.
- Biometrics Appointment: USCIS will schedule a biometrics appointment for you to provide fingerprints, photographs, and other biographical information.
- Attend the Interview: Depending on the category and USCIS’s discretion, you may be required to attend an in-person interview at a USCIS office. During the interview, a USCIS officer will review your application and supporting documents.
- Receive Employment Authorization (Optional): While your AOS application is pending, you can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) using Form I-765. This allows you to work in the U.S. while waiting for your AOS application to be processed.
- Wait for USCIS Decision: After submitting your application and attending the interview (if required), you will need to wait for USCIS to process your application. This waiting period can vary.
- Receive Decision: Once USCIS makes a decision on your application, you will receive a notice of approval or denial. If approved, you will receive your green card in the mail.
Please note that the AOS process can be complex, and individual circumstances can vary. It’s important to carefully follow USCIS instructions, keep track of deadlines, and provide accurate and complete information. Additionally, immigration laws and processes can change, so it’s advisable to consult with an immigration attorney or other qualified immigration professionals to ensure you are navigating the process correctly and effectively.