Adjustment of status is the technical term the immigration authorities use to describe a green card application. it is the process you need to follow to secure the right to live and work in the United States if you are already on American soil.
A green card allows you to live and work permanently in the United States on a permanent basis if you abide by the county’s laws. You cannot work in the USA in the absence of a green card unless you have a non-immigrant visa such as an L, H, or O visa or an employment authorization card.
To secure adjustment of status, you must be eligible for a green card in one of the following categories:
- Family : You may qualify for a family-based green card if you are the spouse, parent, child, or another close relative of a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.
- Employment: You may apply for an employment-based green card if you have already been legally working in the United States.
- Other: Refugees, asylees, or others applying on humanitarian grounds such as human trafficking victims may qualify for adjustment of status.
How Do I Find Out If I am Eligible for Adjustment of Status?
A great first step to find out if you are eligible for adjustment of status is to visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ page on green card eligibility categories.
Relatives of U.S. citizens or relatives of lawful permanent residents receive more green cards than any other category. The government issues more than a million a year to family members.
Our Virginia Beach-based immigration lawyers help many spouses of U.S. citizens to adjust their status every year. These spouses often met American service personnel from Hampton Roads while they were posted overseas. USCIS defines the spouse of a U.S. citizen, the unmarried child of a U.S. citizen under the age of 21, and the parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old as an immediate relative. These relatives get special priority in the immigration system. There is no limit on the number of visas for immediate relatives.
You may also be eligible for adjustment of status under the family-based preference categories as other relatives of U.S citizens or relatives of green card holders.
This category includes the unmarried daughter or son of a U.S. citizen over the age of 21, a married son or daughter of a U.S citizen, or the brother or sister of a citizen aged 21 or older.
The spouse of a lawful permanent resident, an unmarried child of a lawful permanent resident under the age of 21, or the unmarried child of a permanent resident aged 21 or older, also fall into the family-based preference category.
The fiancé or fiancée of a U.S citizen who holds a K-1 non-immigrant visa and the child of a fiancé or fiancée of a U.S citizen who holds a K-2 non-immigrant visa is also eligible for adjustment of status.
The widow or widower of a U.S citizen can also apply for adjustment of status if they were married to the citizen at the time he or she died.
The federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows adjustment of status for abused spouses of citizens or lawful permanent residents, abused children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents under 21, and abused parents of U.S. citizens.
Some workers can apply for adjustment of status and green cards through their employment in the United States. Although an employer is required to obtain labor certification and file immigrant petitions for workers, employees can apply for adjustment of status once they are in the United States.
You have a higher chance of success if you are a first preference immigrant worker, meaning you have an “extraordinary ability” in the arts, science, education, business, or athletics. USCIS also prioritizes outstanding professors or researchers, and multinational managers and executives who meet certain criteria.
The immigration authorities are exacting about first preference immigration workers. However, professionals with advanced degrees, those with “exceptional abilities” in the arts, science, or business, or people seeking a national interest waiver may apply in the second preference category.
Skilled workers whose jobs require at least two years of training, professionals holding a bachelor’s degree, and unskilled workers can apply for adjustment of status as third preference immigration workers. However, acceptance rates are lower. Applicants must show that they are performing work for which qualified workers are not available in the United States.
USCIS also allows adjustment of status for doctors who agree to work full-time in underserved areas under the Physician National Interest Waiver. Immigrant investors can apply under another highly specialized work-based area of green card eligibility. You must have invested at least $1.05 million (or $800,000 in a targeted employment area or a U.S. infrastructure project). Your money must go into a new commercial enterprise that creates at least 10 full-time positions.
Certain categories of special immigrants can apply for adjustment of status including people who arrived in the U.S. to work in a nonprofit religious organization, juveniles who require the protection of a juvenile court due to abuse or neglect, or Iraqi or Afghani nationals who worked with the U.S. government during recent wars and occupations. International broadcasters or retired officers or employees of international organizations or NATO may also apply.
Refugees or asylees may apply for adjustment of status if they were granted asylum or admitted into the U.S. as a refugee at least a year ago.
Human trafficking victims who hold T non-immigrant visas or crime victims who hold U non-immigrant visas may apply for adjustment of status. USCIS also recognizes certain specialist categories including Cuban natives under the Cuban Adjustment Act, people selected via the Department of State’s diversity lottery, Liberians under the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness program, and people born in the United States to a foreign diplomat.
Eligibility for adjustment of status can be complicated. The rules vary depending on which category you use. However, one consistent rule is that the applicant must be physically present in the United States. Applications from outside the country are dealt with via U.S. consulates abroad.
An immigration petition must have been approved in the case of family-based applicants. Petitions are subject to quotas. Higher priority family and employment-based applications are more likely to be successful. It makes sense to hire an experienced immigration attorney to help you deal with these confusing adjustment of status applications. Call Gardner & Mendoza at (757) 464-9224 to set up a meeting about adjustment of status or contact us via our website.
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