What is Adjustment of Status (AOS)?
Adjustment of status (AOS) is the process by which individuals who are in the United States on a temporary basis through a nonimmigration visa can gain permanent residency status and receive a Green Card while staying in the United States throughout the adjustment process.
Who is Eligible to Adjust Their Status?
In order to qualify for adjustment of status, an individual must be physically and lawfully present in the United States on a valid visa or under the Visa Waiver Program, or married to a U.S. citizen, and must be immediately eligible for a Green Card. Thus, an individual’s circumstances must make him or her eligible to apply for a Green Card according to a Green Card eligibility category. Qualified categories include family-based Green Cards, employment-based Green Cards, and others including refugees and victims of crime or abuse. Each distinctive Green Card category has its own eligibility requirements that an individual must meet in order to adjust their status to a Green Card holder.
What is the Process to Adjust Status?
The process for adjusting status varies somewhat depending on the Green Card category an individual is adjusting his or her status under and the initial visa the individual is in the United States under. For example, individuals in the United States under certain visas such as the F-1 visa cannot be used as a placeholder for the visa holder’s intent to permanently immigrate to the United States. Under these visas, an individual may not apply to adjust their status within 90 days of arrival in the United States or risk having their application denied and their current visa revoked. Under other visas, such as the H-1B visa, individuals may come to the United States with the intention of permanently immigrating and thus these visas are not subject to the 90 day rule.
Determine Green Card Eligibility and File Petition
The first step to adjust status is to determine eligibility under one of the Green Card categories. After Green Card eligibility is determined under one of the Green Card categories, a petition must be filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by a qualified individual on behalf of the visa holder or family member seeking to adjust their status. For example, individuals in the United States on an employment visa should have their employer file the appropriate petition on the visa holder’s behalf, and a spouse of a United States citizen should have the citizen spouse file the appropriate petition on the immigrating spouse’s behalf.
File the Appropriate Immigrant Petition for the Green Card Category
Different Green Card categories require certain immigrant petitions to be filed for the adjustment of status application with the USCIS. Individuals seeking to adjust their status under the family-based Green Card category must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, while individuals seeking to adjust their status under the employment-based Green Card category must file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. Refugees and asylees must use Form I-730.
File the Adjustment of Status Petition
After the USCIS approves the immigrant petition, individuals must then file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Certain immigrant visa categories, such as immediate family members and most employment-based visas, allow Form I-485 to be concurrently filed with the immigrant visa petition, while others require the immigrant petition to be approved first before filing Form I-485.
Visa Availability and Family Members
The speed with which an individual will be granted an immigrant visa will depend on the availability of visas in their Green Card category. The availability of visas in any given Green Card category can also depend on the individual’s circumstances and his or her country of origin. It is important to note, however, that individuals applying as immediate family members (such as a spouse or child) will not have to wait for visa availability.
Attend Biometrics Services Appointment
After filing Form I-485 and paying applicable fees, the applicant will receive a confirmation letter from USCIS showing that Form I-485 was received. USCIS will then mail the applicant a notice of the date, time, and location of his or her Biometrics Services Appointment.
At the Biometrics Services Appointment, the applicant will be required to provide his or her fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature in order to verify his or her identity, obtain additional information, and conduct a background and security check. The fee for the Biometrics Services Appointment is $85.
The USCIS may also require an applicant to attend an in-person interview where the applicant will be asked questions about their desire to live permanently in the United States and their qualifications under the applicable visa category.
If, after the interview, the USCIS still needs further information or evidence in support of the application, the applicant will receive a formal request in the mail stating what evidence the USCIS is requesting.
Check Case Status and Receive Green Card
Applicants can monitor the status of their application online through the USCIS website or by calling the USCIS.
Individuals whose applications are approved by the USCIS will first receive a written notice of approval in the mail, followed by the physical Green Card identification document sometime later.
Conditional Green Cards
Individuals who adjust their status through a new marriage may likely receive a conditional Green Card that is valid for two years. After the two years under the conditional Green Card, the individual can apply for lawful permanent residency status to receive a Green Card that is valid for ten years. All other individuals seeking to adjust their status should receive lawful permanent residency immediately upon adjusting their status.
How Long Does Adjustment of Status Take?
The length of time required to complete the process to adjust status can vary depending on the situation. Individuals who seek to adjust their status based on marriage to a United States citizen will face the shortest time frame of around one year. Adjusting status based on marriage to a Green Card holder, however, may take over two years. Other categories of status adjustment may take up to three years.
The USCIS allows individuals to gauge processing times on its website. Processing times may vary depending on where in the United States an applicant is initiating the adjustment of status process.
How Much Does it Cost to Adjust Status?
Immigrant Visa Petition
The cost to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative is $535. The cost to file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker is $700. There is no fee to file Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition.
Biometrics Services Appointment
The cost of the Biometrics Services Appointment is $85. However, individuals under the age of 14 or over the age of 79 do not have to pay this fee. Individuals who have been admitted to the United States as refugees also do not have to pay the Biometrics Services Appointment fee.
The cost to file Form I-485 can vary depending on age and Green Card category. For most applicants the cost is $1,140. However, individuals who are under the age of 14 applying with Form I-485 of at least one parent must only pay $750. Individuals who have been admitted to the United States as refugees do not have to pay anything to file Form I-485.