In today’s fraught immigration climate, more and more immigrants who come to the U.S. want to be able to adjust from a nonimmigrant visa to an immigrant visa or status which will allow them to remain in the country. Normally, adjusting one’s immigration status is a fairly low-key affair. However, during the current administration, the procedure has become more intimidating. Understanding what is required can make it less so.
Are You in the U.S.?
It may seem like splitting hairs, but one important factor is that if you are not currently located in the United States, any attempt to change to an immigrant visa or green card is not called adjustment of status. Rather, it is called consular processing, because technically, a putative immigrant who is not in the United States has no status to change. Anyone abroad would simply go through normal consular processing, just for a much longer-term visa than the more common B1/B2.
If someone is already in the U.S.—for example, a student on an F1 visa—and wishes to change his or her status to another visa type, there is a specific procedure to follow. You must file the relevant immigrant petition (or a sponsor, such as a U.S. citizen fiancee or employer, must do so on your behalf), and you must be able to verify that there is a visa available in your category. In other words, the priority date must be current before your petition will be accepted for processing. Once this occurs, all you need do is wait—you will be considered to still be in legal status, as you are awaiting your decision.
Am I Ineligible to Adjust Status?
Despite the relatively simple process that must be followed in order to adjust status, it is important to understand that some people are simply not eligible to adjust status within the United States, and must go abroad in order to do so. This can sometimes be a difficult thing to hear, because so often, the idea of going abroad is inconvenient or even dangerous. However, if you fit into certain categories, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will not accept your application if it comes from inside the country.
The main groups of people affected by this are those who entered the country on the Visa Waiver program (in other words, those who only needed to present their passport to enter the country, instead of having to obtain a visa), and the undocumented. If you are in either of those groups, any adjustment of status must come from outside the U.S., with rare exceptions. This does not apply if you are seeking adjustment due to your status as the immediate relative (parent, spouse, widow/er or unmarried adult child) of a U.S. citizen, but otherwise, you will have to leave the country, seek the right papers, and return at a later time.
Seek Experienced Help
The ability to adjust status is a convenience that not everyone unfortunately has access to. If you have questions about whether or not you may be eligible, call the Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC. We are happy to try and assist you. Contact the office today to set up a free consultation.
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