What is an Adjustment of Status and How Do I Submit a Green Card Application?

Generally, a person who wants to apply for green card status as a legal permanent resident (a green card) in the United States must be in his or her home country to process the application.  However, this can be a problem for people who have already arrived in the United States legally.  For example, for people who have arrived as refugees, someone’s fiancée, or on a work visa, returning to their native land can represent a serious and sometimes dangerous disruption to their lives.  For people in such circumstances, an “adjustment of status” or “application for lawful permanent residence (LPR)”can be a good solution.  An adjustment of status allows a person who is already present in the United States to apply for legal permanent residence without returning to his or her home country.

Who is eligible for an adjustment of status?

Determining eligibility for an adjustment of status is a complicated process.  To begin, only a person who would already be eligible for legal permanent residence can apply for an adjustment.  As noted above, this can encompass a wide variety of people, including refugees, family members of US residents, workers, and victims of crime, trafficking, or abuse.  You also must have filed an application for legal permanent residence, which typically requires a “sponsor” to file the documents on your behalf.  Finally, applications for an adjustment of status are typically not accepted until there are visas available in the category for which a person is applying. The best option for you is to talk with an experienced immigration lawyer before you do anything.

How do I apply for an adjustment?

To initiate an application for an adjustment of status, you need to file a Form I-485.  Depending on your particular circumstances, your I-485 will need to be accompanied by various supporting documents.  For example, nearly every applicant must also visit a doctor for an examination, and have the doctor submit the results of the exam on a Form I-693 in a sealed envelope.  People who are seeking status based on a marriage to a citizen will need to file a Form I-130 as well as a marriage certificate.  Individuals seeking asylum would need to submit their notice of approval as an asylee.

Once you’ve filed your I-485, you will be contacted by your local Application Support Center to schedule an appointment.  At that appointment, they will collect biometric data, such as fingerprints, signatures, and photographs to help verify your identity.  It is extremely important that you do not miss your appointment; if you do, your application can be denied.  After your appointment, you may be asked to return for an interview to answer questions under oath about the information provided on your application.  Finally, in some cases you may be required to submit additional evidence after the interview to provide additional information.

Clearly, the process of applying for permanent residence through an adjustment of status can be very complicated.  And in most cases, the results can have enormous impacts on the applicant’s life, with denials sometimes meaning the applicant would have to return to his or h