Applying for lawful permanent residency outside the United States through “consular processing” can be a daunting process. This process bounces back and forth between U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State (DOS) and may take a year or more to navigate successful entry into the U.S. after waiting patiently for years to have a visa available. However, consular processing an immigrant visa is not the only way to obtain lawful permanent residence and some, but not all, individuals may be eligible for a more streamlined process inside the U.S. This process known as Adjustment of status allows foreign nationals who have maintained their nonimmigrant status while waiting for an immigrant visa inside the United States once there is a visa available to them. You may wonder, “Do I qualify?”
Whether or not you qualify to adjust status will depend heavily on the category through which you are eligible to apply for your immigrant visa and this is determined by who is sponsoring you, your country of citizenship, the visa category you used to come to the U.S., and your current visa status. The first and arguably most important requirement for adjustment of status is that you must be in the United States currently after having entered the U.S. legally. Second, there must be a visa available in your particular category.
The application procedure for an adjustment of status is as follows:
- File a petition: In most cases, you must have a sponsor who submits an immigrant visa petition (i.e. Form I-130 or Form I-140) to the USCIS on your behalf. A sponsor may be either a family member or an employer in most cases. A limited number of people may be eligible to self-sponsor such as those who qualify under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to file the Form I-360.
- Check availability: The number of visas available each year is limited for both family and employment immigration unless you are an “Immediate Relative” (IR) of a U.S. citizen sponsor. An IR is either a spouse of a U.S. citizen, a child under 21 of a U.S. citizen, or a parent of a U.S. citizen child who has turned 21. So, you’ll want to make sure a visa is available in your category before filing the application for permanent residence.
- File Your Application: While your sponsor must file your petition, you must also file the Form I-485 application that requests Adjustment of Status to become a lawful permanent resident. This may be done concurrently with your immigrant petition if the visa is available in your category, but only happens after years of maintaining nonimmigrant status if there is not currently a visa available to you.
- Attend an appointment at the Application Support Center: Once you have filed your Form I-485, you will receive a separate notice by mail that you must submit your biographic information in person. USCIS will assign you to the nearest Application Support Center that has an appointment available where they will take your digital photo and scan your fingerprints for use in the required background check.
- Submit to an Interview: The final step for most Adjustment of Status applicants is an in person interview at the local field office. This is now true even for employment-based application that were filed after March 6, 2017. A USCIS officer will conduct an interview under oath where they will review your application information with you and, in the case of a family sponsorship, your petitioner. It is rare that an immigrant visa petitioner and the adjustment of status applicant are separated, so don’t panic about this step of the process. Plus, you can have an attorney present during the interview to ensure the process goes more smoothly.
Once you have completed this process, the USCIS will notify you in writing whether or not your petition has been approved and you have been granted lawful permanent residence status. Individuals who are filing based on a marriage to a U.S. citizen where the marriage has been in place fewer than two years should be aware that your initial grant of permanent residence will be conditional and that additional steps will be required after two years to remove the conditions. The Adjustment of Status process can be daunting, but Akula & Associates is here to remove the mystery and is ready to be by your side to guide you through it for a successful outcome.
Call Akula & Associates, P.C. today at (844) 299-5003 for a case evaluation and get help applying for your adjustment of status.