Adjustment of status is the last step in the green card or (LPR) process (that of becoming a legal permanent resident). You, the foreign national have to file an I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status, most likely based on a pre-existing and approved or approvable Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) or Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative). I-485 applications and I-130 or I-140 petitions can be filed concurrently depending on the immediate availability of an immigrant visa number. You are required to file the adjustment of status application along with an I-693 Medical Examination of Alien issued by a licensed Civil Surgeon and also a G-325A, Biographic Information form. These serve as documents to a complete medical and immunological history as well as a record of your places of employment and residence during the past five years.
The USCIS will schedule a date for you to have your fingerprints, picture and signature recorded for their FBI background check and entry in the USCIS records. Normally, an interview with a USCIS official is required in a majority of cases.
You are allowed to work and travel with a pending adjustment of status application. The application will be considered abandoned if you do not attend a biometrics appointment or interview. Applications may also be rejected if
- The underlying immigrant petition is denied/withdrawn
- You are found to have entered or resided in the US illegally (this may be waived if you originally entered with a valid visa and are an immediate relative of the US citizen-petitioner)
- You are judged as undesirable on the grounds of previous criminal convictions, affiliation with unsuitable political parties/organizations (former members of the Communist Party) and poor character or have weakening health problems, as well as other inadmissible grounds.
Once your Form I-485 is approved, a permanent residency card (green card) valid for ten years will be issued to you. After five years, you will be eligible to apply for naturalization. If you are an LPR who got your green card through marriage, you will be eligible to apply for naturalization after only three years if you are still living with the same spouse who originally filed the petition for you.
If you are a green card holder, you have certain restrictions on your rights. If you marry a foreign born spouse, you may have to remain separated for years from your spouse or family while the paper work needed to get immigration authorization wades through the system. As mentioned earlier, permanent resident cards come with a validity of ten years and you have to renew it on its expiration. You have to file Form I-90, Application to replace green card to get your green card replaced.
Persons who have held asylee or refugee status for one year or more will also qualify to file the application to adjust status to a permanent resident.
However, note that if you are outside the US, you are not eligible to file an application to adjust status to Permanent Resident. Eligible applicants outside the US may get a green card by applying for an Immigrant Visa at a US consulate abroad.
A citizen of United States marrying foreign-born persons and petitioning for them to obtain permanent residence in the U.S is very common. Per immigration laws, spouses of U.S. citizens are considered “immediate relatives” and therefore are exempt from all numerical quota limitations. Getting a green card through marriage to a US citizen is considered the fastest way to getting a green card.
Battered spouses and children of US citizens or lawful permanent residents get special benefits under US immigration laws. A US citizen can also get a temporary visa for a fiancée and get married once he/she arrives in the US.
Marriage in the US:
To get a green card through marriage, the US citizen has to submit a visa petition (Form I-130). The following have to be attached to the visa petition:
- Forms G-325 (Biographical forms) for both the husband and wife.
- Proof that the petitioner is a citizen (US Passport, a Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship or a certified copy of the citizen’s birth certificate)
- Certified copy of the marriage certificate
- Certified copies of the documents if previous marriages were terminated including final divorce decrees, and certificates of annulment or death.
The foreign-born spouse has to submit an application for adjustment of status (Form I-485). On receiving and reviewing your application, the USCIS will schedule an interview within a few months.
Marriage outside the US:
Earlier, the foreign-born spouse had to remain in his/her country until he/she got a green card. However things changed post August 14, 2001 as temporary K-3 and K-4 visas became available and this permitted the spouse and children of US citizens to get temporary visas to come to the US and process the paperwork in the US.
The US citizen spouse has to submit a visa petition to either the USCIS office which has jurisdiction over his residence or directly to the US Embassy or Consulate in the country where the foreign-born spouse resides. Once the visa petition is approved, the foreign-born spouse will receive a package from the National Visa Center (NVC). The package will detail the foreign-born spouse of the documents that has to be presented at the immigrant visa interview abroad (passport, police clearances, medical examination results, etc.). The package will also have certain documents requesting biographic data that has to be completed, signed and forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.
Normally, the foreign-born spouse will be interviewed and issued an immigrant visa within three to six months. The State Department charges a fee to issue an immigrant visa.
The conditional resident card is valid for two years. Both spouses must submit a joint petition (Form I-751) to remove the two-year condition within the 90-day period before the end of the two year period.
If the marriage was terminated due to divorce, death of the citizen spouse or spousal abuse, the foreign-born spouse may apply for a waiver of the joint petition requirement at any time before the end of the two-year period. Once approved, a permanent resident card with ten year validity will be issued.