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Adjustment of Status

Many of our clients working in the U.S. are interested in pursuing green cards. There are many ways to transition from nonimmigrant status to permanent residency while in the U.S., but they all involve something called the “adjustment of status.”

What does it mean to “adjust status?”

Adjustment of status is the process of applying for a green card from within the United States. To “adjust status” just means transitioning from nonimmigrant (someone traveling to the U.S. for a specific period of time) to permanent resident (someone who has made the U.S. their permanent home). To apply for permanent residency you would file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

What does the adjustment of status process look like?

The first step is to determine whether you are eligible to apply for a green card. Many of Legalpad’s clients pursue green cards by way of the EB-1, EB-2, or EB-2 NIW. However, there are many options to apply for permanent residency and the best option for you depends on your personal circumstances.

Next, you or someone else must file an immigrant petition alongside the relevant supporting documents. Again, there are many different immigrant petitions available but the most common among Legalpad’s clients is Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.

Once your immigrant petition is approved, and your priority date is current, you can apply directly for the green card by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, alongside the required supporting documents. Applicants generally choose to file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and I-131, Application for Travel Document, alongside Form I-485. These petitions are processed much more quickly, and in doing so applicants may receive permission to work and travel to/from the U.S. while waiting for USCIS to adjudicate their green card petition.

Applicants are generally required to attend an interview with USCIS as part of their green card petition. During this meeting, a USCIS officer will ask you questions to verify your background and eligibility for permanent residence.

Finally, USCIS will make a decision on your case. You’ll receive a letter announcing their decision and, assuming it’s an approval, you’ll receive your green card in the mail a few weeks later. Congratulations, you’re a permanent resident!

What are the eligibility requirements to adjust status?

It depends! There are many paths towards a green card, and the best option for you depends on your personal circumstances. Most of Legalpad’s clients pursue green cards through the EB-1, EB-2, or EB-2 NIW processes – each of which requires an approved Form I-140.

What’s the difference between permanent residency and a green card?

Permanent residency is a status. The U.S. government issues permanent residents a document called the green card. So if you’re a permanent resident, you have a green card.

What’s the difference between an I-140 and I-485?

The I-140 establishes your eligibility to apply for permanent residency via the EB-1, EB-2, or EB-2 NIW processes. The I-485 is the form you used to apply for the adjustment of status, or the green card. In other words, in most cases, you need an approved I-140 in order to apply for an I-485.

Are there any differences between the adjustment of status processes for the EB-1, EB-2, or any other method?

No, the adjustment of status process is the same across the board.

Does the I-485 have premium processing?

Unfortunately, the I-485 is not available for premium processing. See here for current processing times.

Can I travel while my I-485 is pending?

Legalpad recommends you not travel outside the U.S. while your I-485 is pending, because doing so risks abandoning your petition. However, you are free to travel as much as you like once you’ve received your Travel Document, which is generally issued while your green card petition is still pending.  

How long is my green card valid?

Green cards are valid for up to 10 years. At that point, you have the option to renew your permanent residency via Form I-90. You also have the option to apply for citizenship after 5 years of permanent residence (3 years if you’re married to a US citizen). 

When can I apply for citizenship?

You have the option to apply for citizenship once you’ve been a permanent resident for at least 5 years (or 3 years if you’re married to a US citizen).


About the author:

Ahmed Mousa

Account Executive, Legalpad

Ahmed helps international founders understand their U.S. immigration options so they can focus on the important things, like growing their startups.