The Immigration and Nationality Act lets nonimmigrants who are living in the U.S. change their temporary status to become a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) without having to leave the country. This process is known as adjustment of status.
There are two ways to get an immigrant visa that would let you permanently live and work in the U.S. People who are living abroad must go through consular processing to get an immigrant visa. But nonimmigrants who are living in the U.S. can go through an adjustment of status to get their green card. Before you apply for adjustment of status, you need to learn how this process works.
Ways to Immigrate to the U.S.
There are a few ways to get a green card:
* Through Family: A relative who’s a U.S. citizen or green card holder can petition for you to get a green card.
* Through a Job: A U.S. employer that would give you a job in the U.S. can petition for you to get a green card.
* Through Investment: You would make a large business investment in the U.S. that would create or protect at least 10 full-time jobs.
* Humanitarian Programs: You entered the U.S. as a refugee or asylee.
Through Family: Your U.S. relative citizen or green card holder who’s living in the U.S. can sponsor you for a green card by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you.
U.S. citizens can file for their husband or wife, parents, children, brothers and sisters. Green card holders can only sponsor their husband or wife or children.
Through a Job: A U.S. employer can sponsor nonimmigrants for a green card if the employer is willing to give them a job in the U.S. They can do this by filing Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker. The employer also needs to file applications for labor certification.
Through Investment: You can also get a green card by making a $1,000,000 USD business investment in the U.S. (or a $500,000 business investment in a high-unemployment or rural area in the U.S.) that will create or preserve at least 10 permanent, full-time jobs for U.S. workers. To do this, you don’t need a sponsor. Instead you file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, for yourself.
Humanitarian Programs: You don’t need someone to sponsor you for a green card if you’ve been legally allowed into the U.S. as a refugee or asylee. But to get a green card through humanitarian programs, you must meet certain additional requirements such as be from a country that the U.S. offers Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
Concurrent Filing of Adjustment of Status Applications
Some nonimmigrants can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to apply for a green card at the same time as someone sponsors them if they’re already legally in the U.S. This is called concurrent filing. However, not everyone is allowed to file Form I-485 at the same time as their sponsor files their immigrant petition.
The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (the citizen’s husband or wife, parent, or child under 21) who are already in the U.S. can file Form I-485 at the same time as their U.S. citizen relative files From I-130 for them.
Most nonimmigrants need their sponsor’s petition to be approved before they file their Form I-485 application to adjust their status.
Filing Form I-485
Form I-485 comes with form filing instructions that will help you fill out and file the form correctly with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It’s important that you don’t make any mistakes while you’re completing the form.
You will need to include supporting documents that show that you’re eligible for a green card. What supporting documents you’ll need to include will depend on why you’re eligible for a green card. The filing instructions will explain what documents you’ll need to include. Make sure that you include the correct documents or the USCIS won’t be able to approve your application. Nonimmigrants who can’t prove that they’re eligible for a green card won’t be able to get a green card.
Your Biometrics Appointment
Once the USCIS accepts your Form I-485 adjustment of status application, it will schedule you for a meeting to have your biometrics (fingerprints, photograph and signature) taken at an Application Support Center (ASC) near you. The U.S. government will use your biometrics to make sure that you don’t have a criminal history. The USCIS will also use this information to create your green card and documents that you might apply for, such as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD, or work permit). You must go to this appointment or your application for a green card could be denied.
You might have to go to an interview after you apply to adjust your status. The USCIS would send you a letter scheduling you for your interview. This letter will let you know when and where to go to your interview. People who had a relative sponsor them for a green card might have to bring that relative to the interview.
You will need to bring your original passport, travel documents, Form I-94 and other original documents to the interview.
Once the USCIS decides whether to approve you for a green card, it will send you a letter telling you what it decided. People whose green card applications are approved will now be able to legally live and work in the U.S. for the rest of their lives. People whose applications are denied can appeal the USCIS’s decision or file a motion to have their case reconsidered. They have to file an appeal or a motion to reconsider within 30 days after the USCIS sent its denial notice. Information on how to appeal is on the denial notice.