What is Adjustment of Status?
The process through which a nonimmigrant living in the U.S. applies for permanent residence (green card) is known as Adjustment of Status (AOS). The applicant will be able to stay in the U.S. while the application is being processed, even if their current visa expires during the process.
Adjustment of Status (AOS) Explained
Eligible foreign nationals in the United States on nonimmigrant visas are allowed to change their status and become lawful permanent residents of the United States. To do so, they must apply for an Adjustment of Status (AOS) by filing Form I-485. However, all nonimmigrants may not be eligible to adjust their status; they need to meet a few eligibility requirements first.
Foreign nationals who are outside the United States can apply for permanent residence through a process called consular processing. The application will be processed at the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate in the applicant’s country. The timelines, processing fees, documents, and forms may be different in both processes. However, all applicants, irrespective of the process they follow to get a green card, have to be eligible for a green card before they can apply.
Who can apply for AOS?
You need to be eligible for a green card through a family member, employment, or other means like the diversity visa lottery or on humanitarian grounds.
To be eligible through a family member, you should be the spouse, child, parent, sibling, or other close relatives of a U.S. citizen or a U.S. permanent resident.
Employment-based green cards are for those who have an employer willing to sponsor a green card for them or can qualify on their own for a green card based on their extraordinary abilities and achievements.
Other green cards are meant for individuals who, according to the USCIS qualify on humanitarian grounds, for the green card lottery, or in other categories.
Adjustment of Status Process
You must be physically present in the country. You must have entered the U.S. with a valid visa or have been eligible under the visa waiver program.
Once you know you are eligible for a green card, your sponsor needs to file the appropriate petition for you.
- If it’s a family-based green card, your sponsor who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident needs to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
- If you are getting an employment-based green card, your employer has to file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers.
- For a green card based on humanitarian grounds, it is Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition.
After the petition has been approved, you need to wait for a green card to become available for you. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens need not wait for a visa. Green cards are readily available for them. You can check the visa bulletin to keep track of when a green card will become available.
When you determine that a visa is available for you, you need to file for an adjustment of status using Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. You can also concurrently apply for a work permit using Form I-765, Employment Authorization Document, and for advance parole using Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. The advance parole is a travel permit that allows you to travel while your adjustment of status application is being processed.
You need to make sure that you complete your Form I-485 correctly and don’t leave out any information. Also, make sure you include all the required supporting documents with the application package. If USCIS finds the information inadequate, they will send you a request to provide additional information. This will only delay the process.
After receiving your application, the USCIS will send you a notice for a biometrics appointment. After doing a background check and based on the information provided in your application package, you may or may not be called for an interview.
If an interview is required, the USCIS will send you an appointment notice with the date, time, and place for the interview. Even after the interview, the USCIS may send a request for evidence.
After USCIS adjudicates your case, they will send you their decision, either granting or denying your application. If USCIS decides to grant your application, they will send an approval notice by mail, and follow it up with your physical green card.
Checking case status
While your application is being processed, you can check your case status online at the USCIS website using your application receipt number.
Processing Time for Form I-485
The processing time for an adjustment of status application will vary depending on the category you are filing under.
If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, then the processing time can be anywhere between 5 and 18 months, whereas if you are a spouse of a permanent resident, it could take 5 to 36 months.
Where in the U.S. you file your AOS application will also affect the processing time. You can check the processing times at various offices on USCIS’s website.
Adjustment of Status Filing Fee
The filing fees for an adjustment of status application are as follows:
If you are:
- between 14 and 78 years of age – $1,140 filing fee and $85 biometric services fee
- under 14 years of age and filing with a parent – $750
- under 14 years of age and filing on your own – $1,140
- over 78 years of age – $1,140
- filing as a refugee – no fee is required
What after the application is approved?
Once your AOS application is approved, the USCIS will send you a green card through the mail. This is proof of your permanent resident status in the U.S. and it allows you to live and work anywhere in the country.
In case you got the green card through marriage and it is less than two years since you got married, you will receive a conditional green card. This card is valid for two years only. When there are 90 days left for the card to expire, you need to petition the USCIS to have the conditions removed. Once you do that, you will be issued a green card that is valid for 10 years.
Green card holders, who meet other eligibility requirements, can apply for U.S. citizenship after 5 years as permanent residents (3 years in case of marriage to a U.S. citizen).