Immigrants arrive in the United States each day on nonimmigrant visas, allowing them to remain for a specific period of time, to do specific things. For example, a B2 visa allows someone to come to the U.S. for tourism.
However, if someone decides on a new path, or has the chance to do something different—for example, a foreign student finding a job in the United States—then he or she usually must become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) in order to do so. Some people can do so by filing for what is referred to as an adjustment of status (AOS) within the country. Still, some people are denied this opportunity. It is generally necessary to familiarize yourself with the AOS procedure before moving ahead.
One of the most important factors about adjusting status that must be understood is that undocumented immigrants may not do so, under any but the most unusual circumstances. They must return to their home country to complete consular processing. But, in most cases, leaving the United States would trigger a bar to re-entry based on unlawful presence.
If you are in the U.S. with documentation, however, you are able to apply to adjust status if you are the beneficiary of an approved I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, as long as the priority date is current (that is, there is a visa available to grant to you).
There are categories of immigrant that are eligible to adjust status to that of a lawful permanent resident without being sponsored by a family member or employer. Still, these categories are much less common than the standard family or employment-based adjustments. Refugees and asylees may adjust status to that of an LPR after a certain time, as long as they still retain their refugee or asylee status. Additionally, as of this writing, special immigrant juveniles, as well as Cuban nationals who entered the U.S. under the Cuban Adjustment Act (after January 1, 1959) and have been present for one year or more, can do so as well. If you do not fit into any of these categories, you must return to your home country and apply for processing there.
In order to adjust status to that of a lawful permanent resident, two applications must be filed with United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) in most cases. You must complete the I-485, which is the actual application to adjust status. Your family member or your employer, if applicable to your situation, must complete the I-130.
Usually, the I-130 must be approved before you may apply to adjust status, though in some cases the I-130 may be filed concurrently, such as if you are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. If you fall into one of the categories where an approved immigrant petition is not required, you may simply send in the I-485 to the relevant processing center.
Most applicants for permanent resident status must also go through a medical exam, and it must be performed by a doctor designated as a civil surgeon. While most of the time this process goes smoothly, it is a good idea to keep in mind that the results will only be accepted by USCIS for a specific period of time—usually up to one year afterward. This is why many wait to have the medical exam performed until after their I-130 is approved—given the long wait for priority dates in certain categories, it makes more sense to wait and ensure that the year time limit does not lapse while you are waiting for approval.
Contact an Immigration Attorney
Adjusting status can be a time-consuming and complex endeavor, but having an attorney on your side does help streamline the process more often than not. The zealous Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC are well versed in this area of the law, and are happy to share their knowledge with you. Contact the office today to set up a free consultation.
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