Applying for Adjustment of Status without Leaving the U.S.
U.S. immigration processes can take a toll on foreign-born individuals and their families. Gaining lawful permanent residence in America requires a copious amount of time, energy, funding, and effort, leaving many immigrants frustrated when met with rejected petitions with little to no explanation.
Fortunately, there are various ways that immigrants and their loved ones can establish a sense of safety and financial security in the U.S., liberating them to lead happy, healthy lives on American soil. It’s best to consult with a trusted immigration lawyer who can help determine the best approach to employ on your behalf, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to USCIS processes and procedures.
Adjustment of status is an immigration process that permits noncitizens in the U.S. to transition from nonimmigrant status to immigrant status without having to return to their home country. The difference between the two is outlined below:
- Nonimmigrant status applies to immigrants who come to the U.S. on a temporary basis; and
- Immigrant status permits noncitizens to legally live and work in the U.S. permanently.
Keep in mind that there are other synonymous terms for “immigrant status” in U.S. immigration, including lawful permanent residents (LPR) and green card holders.
Who Can Apply for Adjustment of Status within the U.S.?
When it comes to obtaining a green card, there are basic eligibility requirements that applicants can meet to succeed. However, there is a narrower set of criteria that must be met to apply for a green card without having to return to your country of origin.
For many petitioners seeking lawful permanent residence, this begs the question: Who is eligible to apply for adjustment of status without having to leave the U.S.?
Eligibility Requirements for Adjustment of Status
In certain cases, eligible noncitizens can apply for a green card or adjustment of status without having to leave the United States. Otherwise, applicants may be required to travel overseas to undergo consular processing, in which noncitizens must apply to change their status through a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
Naturally, the opportunity to apply for adjustment of status within U.S. borders can be hugely beneficial for many immigrants and their loved ones, as it offers an opportunity to avoid abandoning family, friends, and careers to apply for lawful permanent residence overseas. For some, the latter may even put their lives at risk, not to mention the lives of their family and loved ones.
Who is eligible to apply for adjustment of status within the U.S.? Under §245 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), applicants must meet certain requirements to apply for adjustment of status without leaving the country:
- They physically reside in the U.S. – Applicants must file their application while physically present in the United States and take care to include all relevant supporting documentation.
- They meet existing green card requirements – To be eligible, applicants must already meet the criteria for a green card according to existing immigration laws and policies, meaning they’re eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence through their employer, family member, or a refugee or asylee.
- They have an approved petition for green cards through family or employment – Eligible noncitizens with family- or employment-based green cards are required to have an approved visa petition on file.
- If a K-1 visa holder, they’re married to their original petitioner – Immigrants who came to the U.S. with a K-1 visa must be in a marital union with the person who petitioned for them to enter the country.
- They didn’t enter the U.S. through TWOV or VWP – To be eligible, immigrants must not have entered the U.S. via the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) or Transit without Visa Program (TWOV).
- One year has passed since entering the U.S. as an asylee or refugee – Eligible immigrants who came to the United States as a refugee or asylee must wait at least one year before applying for adjustment of status.
- They have a valid status – Eligible immigrants must have a valid visa status at the time of application.
Keep in mind that like any area of the law, there can be exceptions to the above criteria. That’s why it’s absolutely imperative to consult with a qualified attorney with sufficient experience in U.S. immigration law, as they can direct you in the right direction and identify legal solutions tailored to your unique circumstances.
Benefits of Applying for Adjustment of Status
The primary benefit of applying for adjustment of status is the ability to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis, eliminating the need to depart and reenter the U.S. through consular processing with an immigrant visa. As you can imagine, this is a very desirable option for those whose circumstances have changed since entering America, such as getting married to a U.S. citizen or working hard to establish themselves in professional industries through American employers.
How to Obtain a Green Card without Leaving the U.S.
To successfully obtain a green card without leaving the U.S., it’s crucial for immigrants to follow USCIS processes and procedures meticulously and correctly. First, immigrants must file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). It’s imperative to not leave any sections on the application blank. If a section doesn’t apply to you, simply write “N/A.”
Additionally, it’s important to include all relevant required documentation and evidence with your application, such as evidence of:
- Proof of identity
- Valid passport photos
- Birth certificate(s)
- Proof of financial support
- Medical and/or criminal history records
- Marriage certificate for spousal petitions
- Lawful admission or parole into the United States
- Proof of employment authorization, tax returns, valid passports from each country where the applicant has citizenship
- Any other items required for the individual’s personal circumstances
Upon successful completion of the Adjustment of Status process, applicants will receive their permanent resident card (also known as a green card) granting them authorization to live and work lawfully in the United States on a permanent basis.
Contact a Trusted Charleston Immigration Attorney
Whether you’re seeking safety from domestic violence under VAWA, defending against a removal order, or applying for naturalization, Maghzi Law Firm has the in-depth knowledge of U.S. immigration laws that you need to be successful. As a former immigrant herself, our fearless immigration attorney has a unique skillset and invaluable perspective when it comes to navigating the U.S. immigration system. No matter your situation, you can trust our compassionate Charleston immigration lawyer to keep your best interests at heart from start to finish.
Complex immigration processes can put deserving families at a disadvantage. Our firm can help protect your loved ones from unjust penalties. Call (843) 800-2750 to schedule a free consultation.