What is Adjustment Of Status?
Adjustment of Status (AOS) is the process for petitioning for a Green Card when you are legally present in the United States and have become eligible to request permanent residency. Adjustment of status occurs within the US, therefore the individual does not have to leave the country at any time during the process. (When someone petitions for a Green Card outside of the US they go through a process called consular processing. During consular processing the Green Card petition is processed by the nearest US Consulate/Embassy and the petitioner remains outside of the US until they receive their Green Card.)
Once AOS is successfully completed, the non-citizen receives a Green Card and thereby now has a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status. A Green Card is the first step to becoming a US citizen; however, an immigrant may be a LPR resident indefinitely and there is no specific requirement for LPRs to petition for their US citizenship.
The AOS process has its own requirements, including timelines, relevant forms and documents, and associated fees. It is, however, important to note that the Green Card eligibility remains the same regardless of what type of process is used to petition for it
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The AOS application processing time can vary and can range from a few months to over 5 years. This is dependent on the type of Green Card being applied for and/or if additional information is requested or mistakes are noted on the application. Additional backlogs that can occur within USCIS offices can also delay processing times. Current processing times can be checked on the USCIS website here. Premium processing is generally not available for Form I-485 but it may be possible to request expedited processing by directly contacting the USCIS Contact Center here. However, contacting USCIS does not guarantee that expedited processing will be granted.
The total cost of AOS application can run over $2300 USD, except for refugees and asylum seekers who do not have to pay any filing fees. The fees associated with the AOS applications can change and it is important to check the latest filing fees and costs at the time of filing. Incorrect fees can cause delays to the application process.
Individuals can request something called “advance parole” which will provide them with travel documentation allowing travel out of and back to the US. Travel outside of the US should not be carried out without advance parole. Leaving the country without advance parole will be considered an abandonment of the Green Card application and a new application would have to be submitted later.
Yes, an individual can work during the AOS process once they have received a valid Employment Authorization card. Individuals apply for employment authorization as part of the initial AOS application process. Individuals should never work in the US without valid Employment Authorization.
Yes, USCIS has a case tracker that allows individuals to check on the status of their case online. The case tracker can be accessed here. To track the status of a case, the original AOS receipt number will be needed. This receipt number was issued on the receipt notification after the AOS form was filed. This receipt number will have to be entered into the tracker to be able to see the current status of a specific application.
There are various factors that determine whether someone who marries a US citizen can go through the AOS status. Even if the individual is in the US, there are other factors, such as if the person is legally in the US, that must be taken into consideration. Although the spouse of a US citizen is an immediate relative and is therefore technically eligible for a Green Card, they may not be eligible for AOS. Most people who come to the US with a valid visa and then meet and marry a US citizen can adjust status, even if they overstay their original visa. However, individuals who do not have lawful status in the US prior to marriage to a US citizen may not be eligible. (There are a few exceptions to this requirement.) Even if the spouse of a US citizen is not eligible for AOS, they may still apply for a Green Card through consular processing outside of the country.
No, an attorney is not required to file an AOS application. However, it is important to note that the AOS process and Green Card application is complicated and small mistakes can result in significant delays and/or a denial. It is best to consult an experienced immigration attorney prior to any filing. An attorney can help to prepare the associated forms and compile necessary evidence/documents in an accurate and timely fashion. An attorney can also assess a case prior to application to determine if there are any problems, mistakes, or other deficiencies. It is always best to try and address the weaknesses in a case before the initial application is submitted.