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Visa holders in the US often want to transition to permanent resident status. A green card affords the cardholder numerous benefits that nonimmigrant visas like the H-1B or L-1 lack. This includes the ability to work and travel freely in the US with few restrictions. Transitioning from a nonimmigrant visa to a green card is called an adjustment of status.
Adjusting your visa status can be a complex and lengthy process, often taking years. You have to include all the right documents and fill out the relevant forms correctly. In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about applying for an adjustment of status, the documents you’ll need, and more.
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Adjustment of status is part of the green card application process. Individuals on nonimmigrant visas have nonimmigrant status, which means that they do not intend or desire to live permanently in the US. So to be eligible for a green card you need to adjust your status from nonimmigrant to immigrant.
This is different than a change of status, which simply involves switching from one nonimmigrant visa to another nonimmigrant visa.
Adjustment of status is completed after you have submitted your green card petition and your priority date is current. Only individuals who currently have a temporary visa are eligible for an adjustment of status. Other requirements include:
The alternative way to get a green card without adjusting your status is to return to your home country after your nonimmigrant visa expires and go through consular processing. Most people would prefer to avoid the hassle of going all the way home, but some may benefit from consular processing. For instance, if your home country is nearby (like Canada or Mexico) then the cost of traveling home may be less than the cost of filing an I-485.
Since the process of adjusting your immigration status is intricate, it’s helpful to have a checklist of everything you’ll need from the beginning to ensure the process goes smoothly. We’ve put together a comprehensive list below:
The main form that you must fill out and submit to adjust your status is the Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Resident Status or Adjust Status. The processing time for this document is typically 6 months. Once you have filled out the document as accurately as possible, you will have to either mail it into the USCIS or submit it online.
Where you submit your Form I-485 will depend on the specific category you are applying under. There are seven different categories: family-based, employment-based, special immigrant, asylum or refugee, human trafficking victim or crime victim, special programs, and a general category for other options. See here to find out where to send your Form I-485.
Adjustment of status petitions are typically processed in 6 months. The application process involves a number of steps, including submitting your packet and completing an interview. Here’s how to apply for an adjustment of status.
Still have questions about adjustment of status? Here’s some more information on processing time, fees, and other adjustment options.
The processing time for the Form I-485 varies, but generally, you can expect it to take 6-8 months from the day you submit your application to when you receive a decision. Unlike the green card application, you cannot use premium processing for the Form I-485.
Form I-485 is also one of the most costly applications to file, though the exact amount you will pay depends on your age. The application fee is:
Consular processing is typically faster than adjustment of status (4-6 months). Whether consular processing is better for you will depend on where you live. Form I-485 is one of the most expensive to file, so if traveling to your home country would be less expensive than the cost of filing then it may be worthwhile. For most applicants, though, filing an adjustment of status is cheaper and less bothersome.
Whether you are applying for an adjustment of status from a marriage-based green card, family-based green card, or employment-based green card, you’ll need to adjust your status. Applicants often expect that once their green card application is approved the adjustment of status will be approved as well. However, this is not always the case. There are a number of reasons your application may be denied, including:
If your application does get rejected you will have the opportunity file again. Many applicants in this situation hire an immigration attorney to figure out what went wrong and ensure their next application is successful.