Every year thousands of people from all over the world apply to become permanent residents (green card holders). It’s a highly coveted status because it allows you to live and work in the U.S. legally and permanently.
And it’s a status that doesn’t expire for you once you’ve been approved.
According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, the USCIS issues green cards to about a million immigrants each year. Most of these immigrants get their green cards through adjustment of status.
Adjustment of status is the process of applying for a green card while already inside the U.S. In general, this means that you don’t have to leave the country to apply for a green card.
The form you use to apply for adjustment of status is Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Most green card applicants need to have an approved sponsoring petition (either through a family, work or special category petition) before being able to apply for adjustment of status. However, there are some green card categories that allow those seeking permanent resident status to file Form I-485 at the same time that they are filing their initial green card sponsoring petition. This is called concurrent filing.
The form includes questions about yourself (biographical information, address, etc.), your immigration history (what type of visa you have, when you entered the country, etc.), what green card category you’re eligible for (family-based, employment-based or a special category) as well as questions about your criminal history.
According to the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act’s Section 254, in general, to be eligible for adjustment of status:
- You must already be eligible for a green card either though family, through an employer or through an asylum/refugee petition.
- You must already have an approved green card petition and have a current priority date (the priority date can be found on Form I-797, Notice of Action and determines whether a green card is currently available for you).
- You must have entered the U.S. with authorization and be on a valid visa status. In most cases, you also can’t have overstayed your visa.
- You must be physically inside the U.S.
Even though these are the general requirements, every adjustment of status application is processed on a case by case basis. There are various exceptions to the general rules that may apply to you in your specific immigration situation.
You may pay the Adjustment of Status Fee with a money order, personal check, cashier’s check or a credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. Most applicants between the ages of 14 and 78 are required to pay both a filing fee and biometric (fingerprinting) fee. Reduced filing fees apply to applicants under the age of 14 and people over the age of 79 years old.