People working and living in the United States on a non-immigrant visa do not necessarily need to travel back to their home countries to seek permanent residence. Foreign nationals who are eligible for permanent residence status and meet certain criteria can use a process known as Adjustment of Status to, well, adjust their status from non-immigrant to immigrant. A successful adjustment of status will result in a green card for the applicant without having left the United States. Adjustment of status is a common process for people in the U.S. on temporary, non-immigrant visas (including the F1 Student Visa or H-1B Visa) seeking to stay in the country permanently.
The first step to adjusting status is to verify eligibility for a green card. Green cards are most commonly obtained through family relations and employment opportunities, but there are other methods of eligibility. For family relations, unmarried children under 21 years of age, orphans to be adopted, and parents of U.S. citizens are typically eligible for IR family-based green cards and spouses of U.S. citizens are typically eligible for IR or CR family-based green cards depending how long they’ve been married. Unmarried children over 21 years of age, married children, and siblings of U.S. citizens, as well as spouses and unmarried children of legal permanent residents, may be eligible for F family-based green cards. For employment opportunities, EB visas are available to certain workers meeting strict criteria and usually require a job offer. An immigration attorney can help you determine if you’re eligible for a green card, and if so, find the best way to obtain it.
The next steps involve a lot of paperwork and waiting. The immigration sponsor (usually a relative or future employer) will need to complete a petition form. The immigrant will need to complete Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. In most cases, the petition form will need to be approved before Form I-485 can be submitted, but Form I-485 can only be submitted when the appropriate visa is available. Some visas are immediately available while others could take several years, or even decades, before becoming available.
After filing Form I-485, immigrants will usually need to attend an Application Support Center (ASC) appointment to provide pictures, fingerprints, and other biometric data. After the ASC appointment, immigrants may have to interview with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After the interview, immigrants may be asked additional questions or asked to provide more evidence. USCIS will finally make a decision on whether or not to adjust status and issue a green card.
All of these steps can be done while in the United States on a non-immigrant visa. The adjustment of status process, however, does not become much easier just because you’re already in the country. Hiring an experienced immigration lawyer is the best thing you can do to ensure your adjustment of status goes smoothly. The Law Offices of Scott Warmuth has a dedicated immigration department focused on helping our clients achieve their immigration goals. Call us at 888-517-9888 to receive a free consultation!