Adjustment of status is a process whereby individuals currently residing in the U.S. may apply to become permanent residents by filing an I-485 application with the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.)
While it’s a convenient process that allows you to potentially get your green card without departing the U.S., you do have to meet certain conditions to be eligible.
Before you try to become a permanent resident through the adjustment of status process, you must understand the requirements you need to fulfill to qualify, which include the following:
- You must have been “inspected and admitted or paroled” into the U.S. This means you entered the United States legally through a port of entry and were authorized to enter rather than sneaking across the border without inspection.
- You must not have violated any of your admission conditions. For example, if you entered on a tourist visa but immediately started working without authorization, you would be in violation.
- You must qualify for an immigrant visa, meaning you fit into one of the family-based or employment-based immigrant categories or another eligible category. A visa must be available immediately for you based on your category and country of chargeability.
- You are required to have an immigrant petition approved on your behalf. Depending on your green card category, this would be Form I-130, I-140, or other applicable petitions that would link you to an eligible category and serve as the basis for your green card application.
Filing the I-485 Application
Once you confirm that you meet the eligibility criteria above, you can move forward with filing Form I-485. Here are some key steps you should consider:
- Determine the correct USCIS lockbox facility where you must file your I-485 application based on where you live. You can find the direct filing addresses on the USCIS website.
- Prepare your I-485 petition along with all required supporting documents. This includes passport photos, a birth certificate copy, and other civil documents.
- Pay the filing fee using either a money order or a personal or cashier’s check. The fees differ based on your category and other factors. The USCIS fee calculator can help you determine the precise amount you owe.
- Make a copy of all the documentation you are submitting for your records before mailing your petition package to USCIS.
Supporting Documents With I-485
In addition to properly filling out and signing your I-485 application, you must include a variety of supporting documents. Some key items USCIS requires are:
- Two passport-style photos
- G-325A Biographic Information form
- I-693 Medical Examination Report
- I-864 Affidavit of Support form if your green card is family-based
- Copy of the petition approval notice that makes you eligible for a green card
- Copy of your birth certificate, including an English translation if necessary
- Copies of any previously issued visas or travel documents
- Certified copies of any court dispositions related to criminal charges or arrests
Without all required supporting documents, USCIS may reject your I-485 application or deny it on the grounds of abandonment if you do not provide the requested evidence in a timely manner.
Beyond submitting your complete I-485 application and supporting documents, you must also complete these additional requirements as part of the adjustment of the status process:
You are required to have a medical exam completed by a USCIS-approved civil surgeon, who will fill out a Medical Examination of Aliens Seeking Adjustment of Status form (I-693). This must show that you do not have a communicable disease and are free from any physical or mental disorder.
Most adjustment of status applicants will be called for an in-person interview at a local USCIS field office. You will have to answer questions regarding your background, eligibility, and submitted application. You must answer truthfully; any misrepresentation could lead to denial.
After filing your I-485, you will receive an appointment notice during which your fingerprints and photographs will be taken at a designated Application Support Center. These biometrics are needed to conduct background checks as part of processing your case.
As part of reviewing your application, USCIS will determine if you are inadmissible to the United States on any of the grounds laid out in the Immigration and Nationality Act.
This includes health-related grounds, criminal grounds, national security grounds, public charges, and others. Depending on the specifics of your situation, you may be able to file a waiver application to overcome certain inadmissibility factors.
Current USCIS processing times for Form I-485 range anywhere from 8 to 15.5 months, depending on the service center processing your case as well as various other factors.
Processing times tend to fluctuate frequently, so check the USCIS website for the latest details. Factors such as your country of birth, completeness of your application, and the need for follow-up evidence can impact how long it takes to get a decision.
Travel While I-485 Is Pending
One tricky aspect of adjusting status is that as soon as you file your I-485 application, you no longer have a valid underlying visa status allowing you to freely travel internationally and return to the U.S. If you depart the country while your adjustment of status is pending, it will be considered abandoned.
However, you can request an advance parole travel document to allow necessary international travel while keeping your green card application intact.
While your adjustment of status application is pending, you are permitted to remain and work in the U.S. legally. However, you must file Form I-765 to officially request an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as proof of your work authorization. This allows you to legally work for any U.S. employer while you wait for approval on your green card application.
Rely on Pride Immigration for Expert Adjustment of Status Guidance
Gaining lawful permanent resident status through adjustment of status can be complex but deeply rewarding. By understanding the requirements and thoroughly preparing your I-485 application and supporting documents, you will be on the path to getting your green card successfully.
However, even the smallest error can increase the risk of denial. Instead of floundering on your own, let Pride Immigration’s team of immigration experts help. We have helped countless foreign nationals with adjustment of status and filing their I-485 application. Contact us today at (703) 594-4040 or online and let us guide you through the process.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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