Adjustment of Status
From Visa to Green Card
If you came to the United States on a visa, whether it's a K-1 Visa or other type of visa and are married to an American citizen, you may be able to file for an "Adjustment of Status" to get permanent resident status. Many people love this process because it can be done in one single step.
One of the great things about adjustment of status is that you can also apply for work authorization while the adjustment case is being processed. If they don't process your case fast enough and you've already spent 3 months waiting, you'll get temporary work authorization while you're waiting for them to finish processing your application.
Another great thing about this process is that you file all of your paperwork concurrently - no more going through three different offices which ask for different things. You're filling sponsorship documents, green card application, and other things all at the same time.
It can be tempting to try to file for an adjustment of status on your own, but we highly recommend that you consult a lawyer prior to filing your paperwork. Any errors with your application will cause delays in getting your work permit and green card. Or they may even prevent you from winning your case at all. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you compile all of the needed paperwork and plan for any issues that might come up.
Adjustment of Status Process
In the process for adjustment of status, you file everything at the same time, and they send you a receipt showing that they received it. They then send you to a biometrics appointment to go get your fingerprints and your photo taken which would happen in your local USCIS office. They run a background check on you and make sure that everything you said is true and you don't have some criminal history or terrorist ties that they would want to know about.
After that, they call you in for an interview, with you and your spouse. It is legally possible for them to approve you without doing an interview, but at least in our experience, they typically require an interview.
The marriage interview is an important step that you need to prepare for. There are a lot of myths about the marriage interview. The important thing to remember is be prepared, don't guess, and be honest. For more information about marriage interviews, check out our blog.
There are several things you need to consider.
- Are you considered an "undocumented" person?
- Is the visa that you currently hold eligible for an adjustment of status?
- Do you need to travel abroad?
- Are there any reasons that your application might be denied?
If you are undocumented, you might not be eligible for an adjustment of status. However, in most cases, an immigrant can still adjust status based on marriage if they entered legally with a visa but stayed too long and have become undocumented.
People who entered with certain types of visas are not eligible for an adjustment of status. Examples would be in many cases a J-1 Visa which allows exchange students to study in the United States; part of the visa requirements is that they leave the United States for 2 years after the visa expires.
Another example is when the immigrant came with a K-2 Fiancé visa, but did not actually marry the U.S. citizen who sponsored that visa. If the immigrant later marries a different U.S. citizen, they cannot adjust status under that new marriage. They must use a different method of getting a green card.
If you need to travel abroad during your application for adjustment of status, you may need to file for travel permission ahead of time, but travel permissions can take 3-4 months to process. It is important to consider your travel plans before filing for an adjustment of status, because if you leave before getting a travel document, your case will automatically be denied.