U.S. Immigration 101: Understanding the Adjustment of Status

When you want to apply for lawful permanent resident status, also known as a Green Card, there are generally two ways to go about it. If you are outside of the United States, you must go through a process called consular processing, which involves, in part, applying at a U.S. Department of State consulate in your home country.

“Adjustment of status” is a little different: it means applying for your Green Card when you are already present in the United States. This allows you to have your status changed without returning to your home country.

Adjustment of Status: General Process

Check your eligibility. The first step in adjustment of status is to figure out whether you are eligible for a Green Card, and whether or not you will be able to take advantage of the option of the adjustment of status route in the United States. You must generally do so under a certain category — for example, you might be applying through family, through your employer, or as a refugee. Make sure you meet the requirements for your particular category.

File an immigrant petition. Before you file for adjustment of status, you will need to complete an immigrant petition. Your sponsor/Petitioner must file the petition for you, unless you find yourself in a special case. The exact forms you file will depend on your immigrant category, but your attorney will be able to give you more precise guidance.

File Form I-485. This is the specific form you’ll need for adjustment of status. Once a visa becomes available in your category (if applicable), you must complete Form I-485 and any supplementary forms. Your lawyer can save you time in this process and avoid mistakes.

Respond to USCIS requests. Once your forms are filed, you will get a notice to attend a biometrics appointment at USCIS so they can take your fingerprints, photograph, and signature. You may also be asked to attend an interview, along with your sponsor/Petition and original copies of the documents you submitted with Form I-485. Additionally, USCIS may request more evidence to make sure you are eligible for adjustment of status.

Await the decision. You can check on the status of your case online or by phone. Once USCIS has made a decision, they will send you a written notice with either an approval or a denial. If you are approved, you will get your actual Green Card later. If your application is denied, the notice will list the reasons and let you know if there is a possibility to appeal. An attorney can help you explore your options in cases like this.

Quick Tips for Approvals

Here’s some advice to get the best possible chance at approving your adjustment of status application:

  • Attend all of your appointments with the USCIS (with your attorney present) on time and promptly respond to any requests for additional documentation.
  • Bring all the necessary original documents to your interview.
  • If English is not your native language, you are now required to bring an interpreter to your interview. A bilingual attorney can also be an asset in cases like these.
  • Tell the truth at your interview, but don’t offer up information that isn’t asked of you. It can be easy to say too much and end up with a misunderstanding.
  • Ask your lawyer if you are thinking about traveling or relocating while you wait for your application to process.

Get the Right Legal Support

The adjustment of status process will look a little different for everyone, so it’s important to get the help of an immigration attorney who has experience with a diverse range of clients and scenarios. Call the Villegas Law Office, PLLC for personalized legal assistance based on several years of legal knowledge and training.

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Villegas Law Office, PLLC

Ana Maria Villegas, our principal attorney, understands the stress and uncertainty that often accompanies an immigration case. She has experienced firsthand the feeling of putting your future hopes and dreams into the government’s hands. When you call our office for help, you will connect with an attorney who understands what you are going through on a personal level. U.S. immigration law is one of the most extensive and difficult areas of law to navigate. We limit our practice exclusively to immigration law, allowing us to continuously build upon our extensive knowledge and experience in that area. As our client, you can rest assured that you have a strong, focused legal team working on your side.

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