There are two main paths in processing a case to become a permanent resident (Green Card holder) of the United States. Those outside of the U.S. will go through a process called “consular processing.” This can be a difficult and confusing legal process unless you are familiar with the procedures. Each Embassy or Consulate may have different forms, required documents, and specific procedures that have to be followed. Your case can be delayed significantly if you do not submit the correct forms and documents, in the right way. Even though attorneys are not allowed to attend interviews for consular processing, having a good immigration attorney can help move your case smoothly. An experienced immigration lawyer can prepare your forms and documents, communicate with the Consular officers, and work with you to prepare for the interview. However, for someone already in the U.S., an “adjustment of status” may be preferred.
“Adjustment of status” is the process by which people already inside the United States can become permanent residents, if certain specific requirements are met.
A significant benefit of an adjustment of status is that the applicant does not have to leave the U.S. for processing in order to become a permanent resident. The forms and documents are filed in the U.S., and your attorney may attend the green card interview with you. The interview will take place at the local office of the jurisdiction covering your residence.
For someone to be eligible for an adjustment of status, the applicant must be the beneficiary of a petition to immigrate, usually sponsored by a family member who is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, or by a prospective U.S. employer. Adjustment of status is also available to those who have come to the country as a refugee or obtained asylum status. Adjustment of status is usually available to applicants who have entered with inspection and have maintained status in the U.S., but there are several exceptions that will allow an applicant to pursue an adjustment of status even if they have overstayed or fallen out of status. In certain instances, even an applicant who entered without inspection may be able to adjust their status under a special provision called 245(i), created through the Life Act . It is a good idea to contact a knowledgeable immigration lawyer to see if adjustment of status is available in your specific case.
After your adjustment of status package with the correct forms, documents, I-485 form, and fees is submitted to the USCIS, you will be notified to appear for a biometric appointment at your local Application Support Center. There, you will have your fingerprints and photo taken, and other biometric data collected for background security checks and researching your history.
Subsequently, you will receive an interview notice with an appointment time for an interview at the local USCIS office of the jurisdiction that covers your residence address. At the appointment, you and your sponsor will be asked questions regarding the information you submitted on your application for adjustment of status. You will be asked to bring the originals of all the supporting documentation that you submitted along with your application (such as visas, travel documents, passports, bona fide relationship evidence, tax returns, etc.). Make sure that you bring all of the documents requested, and that they are all accurate. Mistakes or missing documents may result in the delay or denial of your adjustment of status.
If there is an issue, you may receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) letter requesting additional documents or evidence necessary for your case. If your address changes at any time during this process, you must immediately notify the USCIS of the change of address because you will be receiving correspondence about your case, mainly by mail.
After all of these processes have been completed, the USCIS will notify you in writing of their decision, as to whether you have been granted permanent residency or not.
If your application for adjustment of status is denied, you may file an appeal or a motion within 30 days.
If you believe the decision was in error, or if you messed up doing the case on your own, you definitely need to consult an experienced immigration lawyer for assistance because the procedures and legal briefing for an appeal or motion are very complicated and confusing.
If you’re at all confused, that’s probably a good thing. It means that you read the above description carefully. Immigration law is a very complicated process, which is why an immigration attorney can be vital to the approval of your application. A lawyer can make sure all the necessary forms and supporting evidence have been assembled and filled out correctly and sent to the right offices, while also assisting you in making the best impression possible during the application and interview process.