The Complete Adjustment of Status Checklist
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.
What is Adjustment of Status?
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:
- You must currently reside in the US when you file the application
- You must have entered into the US lawfully
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.
Adjustment of Status Checklist
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:
- Form I-485
- Two passport-style photos
- I-94 travel document
- A copy of the approval receipt for your green card from the USCIS
- A job offer letter, if you are applying for an employment-based green card
- A marriage certificate, if you are applying for a marriage-based green card
- I-797 approval receipt of your nonimmigrant visa
- A copy of your Employment Authorization Document, if you have one
- A copy of the results of your medical examination, if necessary (Form I-693)
Form I-485 for Adjustment of Status
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.
How to Apply for Adjustment of Status
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.
- Step 1: Submit your application: Submit your Form I-485, along with relevant documentary evidence, photos, and the I-485 fee. Your packet will include other forms depending on the circumstances of your application. For instance, individuals applying for a family-based green card will have to file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
- Step 2: Attend a biometric appointment: Receive your appointment notification for biometric testing at your local USCIS office. At this quick appointment, you will give USCIS a photo, fingerprints, and your signature. With this information, USCIS will complete a criminal background check.
- Step 3: Attend a USCIS interview: A few months after your biometrics appointment you will most likely be asked to attend an interview with USCIS (not all applicants are interviewed). USCIS officials will ask you to verify aspects of your adjustment of status application. This appointment typically takes 20-30 minutes.
- Step 4: Receive your green card: A few months after your interview you will receive notice of the USCIS’s decision on your application in writing.
Adjustment of Status FAQ
Still have questions about adjustment of status? Here’s some more information on processing time, fees, and other adjustment options.
How long does adjustment of status take?
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.
How much is the adjustment of status fee?
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:
- $750 for applicants under the age of 14 who are filing alongside their parents
- $1,140 for applicants under the age of 14 who are NOT filing alongside their parents
- $1,140 for applicants over the age of 78
- $1,225 for applicants who do not fall into any of the above categories (this includes an $85 biometric fee)
Is adjustment of status better than consular processing?
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:
- You violated the terms of your nonimmigrant visa by getting charged with a crime
- You did not enter the country legally
- You worked in the US without employment authorization
- You overstayed your nonimmigrant visa and are currently residing illegally in the US
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.