U.S. immigration law allows people to petition for a change of status from a visitor visa to a green card, but the applicant has to meet certain conditions. The process can be somewhat complicated, so many people choose to work with an immigration lawyer on adjustment of status petitions. These are some of the most common questions we encounter when it comes to change of status.
Can You Apply for a Green Card While on a Tourist Visa?
You can apply for a green card to gain lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. while you’re visiting the country on a tourist visa. Remember, though, that if you overstay your visa, the visa will become legally void on its expiration date; at that point, you’re in the U.S. illegally. You must apply for a green card before your visa expires, or you must extend your visa – otherwise, you risk jeopardizing your ability to immigrate to the U.S. now or in the future.
However, you can’t enter the U.S. on a visitor or tourist visa with the intention of applying for a green card. It is only appropriate for you to visit the U.S. and decide to apply for a green card after you’re already here. If U.S. Customs and Immigration Services questions your intent – meaning, if USCIS believes you came to the U.S. on a tourist visa with the intent of adjusting your status – you will be responsible for proving that you decided to apply for a green card after you arrived, not before.
Can You Stay in the U.S. While Adjusting Status?
You can stay in the U.S. while adjusting status, even if your permitted stay expires while USCIS has your application. However, you cannot let your visa expire before you apply for an adjustment of status. If that happens, it’s too late to try to get a new legal status in the U.S. – at that point, you’re illegally present in the U.S. and the government expects you to leave. You must overlap your visa stay and your petition for an adjustment of status.
Can You Change a B-1 or B-2 Visa to a Green Card?
You can change your B-1 or B-2 visa to a green card. Both of these visas are usually valid for 6 months, and you may be able to extend that time by an additional 6 months. During that time, you may be eligible to apply for an EB-1 green card if you fall into one of these categories:
- Extraordinary ability
- Outstanding professors and researchers
- Multinational manager or executive
You could also apply for a green card based on family sponsorship if you have qualifying family members who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Your may want to talk to an immigration attorney who can help you figure out the best course of action.
Who is Eligible for Adjustment of Status?
Many people visiting the U.S. on a visa are eligible for adjustment of status. You could be able to file a petition for a green card if:
- You have a qualifying family member who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
- An employer has offered you a specific job and is willing to sponsor you to take that job
- You have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics
- You are an outstanding professor or researcher, or you’re a multinational manager or executive who meets certain criteria
- You’re a physician who agrees to work full-time in a clinical practice in one of several underserved areas
- You’re an investor
- You are a religious worker, you worked for the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan as a translator for at least a year, you’re an international broadcaster or you’re part of one of a handful of international organization
- You were granted asylum or refugee status at least a year prior to your change of status petition
- You’re the victim of human trafficking, abuse or another crime
There are a few other options, as well, so you may want to talk to an attorney about filing an adjustment of status petition if you’re in the U.S. on a visitor visa.
Can You Get Married on a Tourist Visa to a U.S. Permanent Resident?
You can get married while you’re in the U.S. on a tourist visa if you’re marrying a permanent resident or a U.S. citizen. You might not even need to return to your country of origin. However, intent is important – you can’t come to the U.S. on a tourist visa while intending to get married and stay permanently. If you met someone or fell in love after your arrival in the U.S., and then you chose to marry, you’re fine; you just can’t intend to get married and come to the U.S. on a tourist visa. If you know you’re going to get married after your arrival, you must come to the U.S. on a K-1 fiancé visa.
How Much Does it Cost to Become a U.S. Citizen?
The cost to become a U.S. citizen is subject to change, but currently, it’s $725. That includes the $640 fee for filing Form N-400 and the $85 fee the government charges for taking your biometric information. Some low-income applicants may be eligible to pay a filing fee of $320 plus the biometrics fee for a total of $405.
How Long Does it Take to Adjust Status to “Permanent Resident”?
It takes the U.S. government a significant amount of time to adjust an immigrant’s status to permanent resident. Generally, completing the process takes 8 to 14 months, although special circumstances can make the process take longer.
Who Qualifies for an Adjustment of Status?
Many people in the U.S. as students, tourists and other visitors qualify for an adjustment of status to become lawful permanent residents and, eventually, naturalized citizens. You could qualify if you have a citizen or LPR family member who is willing to sponsor you, if you find employment with a qualifying company, or if you meet certain criteria – such as being a person of extraordinary ability. For most people who want an adjustment of status from a visitor visa to a green card, the best thing to do is consult with an immigration attorney.
Can You Work While Waiting for Adjustment of Status?
You can work while waiting for an adjustment of status, but only under specific circumstances. For example, if you’re in the U.S. on a work visa, you’re free to continue working. If you’re not in the country on a work visa, you may still be able to work – but you must file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and wait for approval before you can legally get a job.
How Long Does it Take to Become a U.S. Citizen After Becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident?
If you have a green card, you must wait at least 5 years before you can apply for U.S. citizenship. There are some exceptions, such as when you married a U.S. citizen or came to the U.S. on an investor visa. Additionally, people who are granted VAWA protection, those in the country on refugee or asylee status, or those whose spouses are employed overseas under certain conditions may be able to apply sooner.
Likewise, some people have to wait longer than 5 years before applying for citizenship, such as those who:
- Haven’t spent enough time physically present in the U.S.
- Have lived in a jurisdiction other than the one where the application is filed for fewer than 3 months
- Have spent more than a year outside the U.S.
- Cannot demonstrate good moral character
What is the 4 Year, 1 Day Rule for U.S. Citizenship?
The 4 year, 1 day rule for U.S. citizenship refers to continuous residency. If your application for naturalization is denied because you were outside the U.S. for more than a year during the time you were supposed to be continuously present, you may apply for naturalization 4 years and 1 day after you return to the U.S. to resume permanent residence.
How Can You Legally Immigrate to the U.S.?
There are several ways you can legally immigrate to the U.S., but they all tie back to one thing: the visa. You must come to the U.S. on a visitor visa in one of several categories. This is true whether you’re a refugee or asylee, you come for work, or you come to be with your qualifying family members or fiancé.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Change of Status From a Visitor Visa to a Green Card?
If you’re in the U.S. on a visitor visa, we may be able to help you change your status to lawful permanent resident. Call us today at 757-464-9224 to schedule a consultation with an immigration attorney – we’ll ask you some questions about your situation and help you figure out the best course of action.