In certain situations, it is possible to remain in the United States if you arrived with a nonimmigrant visa, if you apply for a Green Card through adjustment of status (AOS).
What does this process entail exactly, how long does it take, and who is considered eligible?
We’ll walk you through the process of filing for an adjustment of status, including eligibility, how long the process takes, the documents you need, fees and more.
Plus, we’ll share how our knowledgeable and compassionate immigration attorneys at Spar & Bernstein can help you throughout the process of obtaining your Green Card, to remain with your loved ones or pursue your dream to live and work in the US.
What Is An Adjustment Of Status?
An adjustment of status is the process of applying for lawful permanent resident status, also known as a Green Card, when you entered the US with a nonimmigrant visa, such as a student or tourist visa.
Through an AOS, you can remain in the US until your Green Card is approved, even if your visa expires before the process is complete.
Who Qualifies for Adjustment of Status?
To be eligible for adjustment of status, you must meet the following three criteria:
- Be present in the US when you file your application and remain in the US until the process is complete
- Be present in the US after lawful entry, meaning you were admitted or paroled in the US with valid documents and face-to-face interaction with an immigration officer
- Have an immigrant visa (Green Card) available for you
When is a Green Card immediately available for you?
A Green Card is available if you are an immediate relative of a US citizen, i.e. a spouse, child or parent.
If you belong to a different family preference category, meaning you are a more distant relative, you may have to wait until a Green Card becomes available. You can check availability on the US Department of State visa bulletin.
Note that if your circumstances change during the adjustment of status process, this may affect the outcome of your application.
Also, take into account that you can file only if you have entered the US with a valid visa or under the Visa Waiver Program, that allows you to travel to the US for business or tourism without a visa, for a maximum of 90 days.
To use the Visa Waiver Program, you must be a foreign national from one of the 40 participating countries.
What Documents Do You Need To Apply For An Adjustment of Status?
Filing for an adjustment of status requires a significant number of documents.
Make sure you have these ready before submitting your application:
- Your completed Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
- Your I-94 arrival/departure card showing the date when you entered the US
- A copy of your birth certificate
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
- Your marriage certificate (if you are applying for a Green Card based on marriage)
- Form I-130A, Biographic Information (if you are applying for a Green Card based on spousal relations)
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support
- Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers (if you are applying for a Green Card based on employment)
- A job offer letter (if you are applying for a Green Card based on employment)
- A copy of your previously issued employment authorization documents (EAD) if employed
- Two passport photos following USCIS photo requirements
- Your medical examination results in Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, submitted in an envelope sealed by a USCIS-approved doctor
- Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition (if you are applying for a humanitarian Green Card)
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (optional)
- Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (optional)
- Your applicable filing fees
Gathering these documents alone can make the process overwhelming.
At Spar & Bernstein, we’ll help you prepare and file the documents you need to adjust your status and remain in the US as a lawful permanent resident.
Looking for an adjustment of status lawyer?
How Much Does It Cost To File For An Adjustment Of Status?
The cost for an adjustment of status varies according to your age, whether you file with a parent and whether you must pay for biometric services.
- If you are under 14 years old and you file Form I-485 with one of your parents, the fee is $750
- If you are under 14 years old and are filing without your parent, the fee is $1,140
- If you are between 14 and 78 years old, the fee is $1,225
- If you are 79+, the fee is $1,140.
- If you came to the US as a refugee, filing Form I-485 is free of charge
The fees above include the form fee and biometric services fee. The amounts are non-refundable, regardless of whether you decide to withdraw your application or USCIS decides to take additional actions on your request.
How To Apply For An Adjustment Of Status
This process includes several stages. To apply:
1. Establish if you are eligible for a Green Card
2. Establish if you are eligible for adjustment of status
3. Have your sponsor (petitioner) submit a petition for your Green Card category
- File Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for a family Green Card. Immediate relatives can file concurrently, meaning they can submit Form I-130 together with Form I-485.
- File Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, for an employment-based Green Card
- File Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, for a humanitarian Green Card
- If you want to shorten your Green Card petition period, use premium processingWait until USCIS grants your petition
4. Wait until USCIS grants your petition
5. Check visa availability for your Green Card category
6. File your application when a visa is available, using Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
7. Attend a biometric screening to provide USCIS with your fingerprints, signature and photo, so USCIS can conduct a criminal background check
8. Attend an AOS interview so USCIS can verifies your eligibility, along with the information provided in your application and in the petition submitted
9. Provide additional information or attend a second interview, if USCIS requires it
10. Get your Green Card
How To Monitor Your Application Status
To check the status of your application, visit the case status section on the USCIS website and enter your case number. This will give you information about where you stand during every stage of the process.
If your application is taking longer than usual, contact an immigration attorney from our office to research the reasons for the delay and speed up the process, if possible.
How Long Does An Adjustment Of Status Approval Take?
A process can take between 5 and 36 months, depending on a number of factors, such as your family relation, your location, the workload at your service center and the visa availability in your category.
Generally, if you are married to a US citizen and you file for an adjustment of status, the entire process can take anywhere from 8-14 months.
If you are married to a permanent resident (Green Card holder) and apply for adjustment of status, the process can take around 29-38 months.
Alternative Ways To Obtain A Green Card
If you are not eligible for an adjustment of status, you may be eligible to obtain a Green Card through an alternative path.
If you are not in the US or have not entered the US with a valid nonimmigrant visa, you can apply through consular processing outside the US In this case, you must wait for your Green Card approval before coming to the US
If you are physically present in the US, both adjustment of status and consular processing may be options for you, depending on your individual circumstances.
AOS and consular processing share identical Green Card eligibility requirements. However, the application forms, supporting documents, processing times and fees are different for each process.
To qualify for a Green Card through family, you must be a spouse, parent, child or sibling of a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident.
To qualify for a Green Card through employment, you must work for an employer who is ready to sponsor you, due to your abilities.
To qualify for a Green Card on humanitarian grounds, you must:
- Have lived in the US for a minimum of one year after obtaining refugee or asylum status, if you are applying for a Green Card as a refugee or asylee
- Have lived in the US for a minimum of three years after obtaining a T-visa OR during the duration of prosecution or investigation of human trafficking, if you are applying for a Green Card as a human trafficking victim
- Have lived in the US for a minimum of three years after obtaining a U-visa, not leaving the country during the duration of the application and helping the investigation of certain crimes, if you are applying for a Green Card as a crime victim
- Have been a victim of domestic abuse seeking relief through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), if you are applying for a Green Card as a victim of abuse
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How Can Spar & Bernstein Help With Your Adjustment Of Status & Green Card Application?
Applying can be overwhelming, considering all of the documents needed and regulations in place.
We will review the details of your unique case, explain your options, and help you throughout the process, doing everything in our power to help you reunite with your family or start work in the US as a lawful permanent resident.
Our knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys will:
- Determine if you are eligible for a Green Card
- Determine if you are eligible for an adjustment of status
- Research the possibilities for adjustment of status, if you have overstayed your visa
- Help you file the needed forms
- Represent you as needed
- Prepare you for your USCIS interview
- Monitor your case while USCIS makes a decision
For more information on how long approval takes, check out the video below from our Managing Partner, Brad Bernstein:
Disclaimer: Attorney advertisement. prior successful results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
Bradford H. Bernstein
This article was written and reviewed by Bradford H. Bernstein, a second-generation leader at Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein, P.C., who has helped over 100,000 clients with immigration and personal injury issues. Brad joined the firm in 1993, became a partner in 1997, and assumed leadership in 2000 after Harry Spar retired.View Brad's Bio