USCIS Adjustment of Status, or AOS, is the process of applying for a green card from within the United States.
There are two ways to apply for a green card in the US; the first is AOS, and the alternative is consular processing. Consular processing is where you apply for a card from outside of the US.
There are benefits to both Consular and AOS processing, with each having a particular timeline, requirements, application forms, and supporting documents.
This guide will walk you through the requirements and information for a USCIS Adjustment of Status application.
Who Qualifies for USCIS Employment Adjustment of Status
There are several ways to become a green card holder in the US.
One of the most commonly recognized ways visa holders will apply for a green card is a family-based green card.
You may qualify for a family-based green card as the spouse, child, parent, or close relative of a US citizen or green cardholder.
Humanitarian grounds, the diversity lottery, and employment-based green card application are other ways to apply for a green card.
There are three main criteria for applying for a USCIS Adjustment Status:
- Be physically present in the United States
- You have made a lawful entry into the United States
- Have a visa immediately available to you
The final way to qualify for an adjustment of status is through a USCIS Employment adjustment of status, including several factors.
There are various ways to become a permanent resident through employment that relate to the type of job you have in the US. There is a tier of preferences, starting with priority workers.
These individuals show extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business, or sports. Priority workers also include outstanding researchers and professors and people in business such as managers and executives.
The second preference is individuals are members of professions who hold advanced degrees and show exceptional ability, and the third preference includes skilled workers, professionals, and other workers.
When to Apply for a USCIS Adjustment of Status
The following criteria will help you identify when it is the right time to apply for a USCIS Adjustment of Status.
- You are eligible for a green card.
- You arrived in the US with a valid visa, and you currently reside in the US.
- You have maintained lawful status.
- You have an approved petition form (I-130 or I-140)
- You are on a K-1 fiancé visa that is still valid, and you have married a US-based spouse.
- You have waited at least one year since USCIS granted you asylum or refugee status.
- You are eligible for adjustment of status under Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
The 90-day rule also applies. When you enter the US on a non-immigrant visa, the US expects you to stay in America according to the reason on your visa. For example, if you are on a student visa, you are expected to remain in school. Entering the US for the sole purpose of adjusting your status to a green card negatively affects your application, which should be made no less than 90 days after you arrive in the country.
What USCIS Forms do I Need for an Adjustment of Status Application?
There are several important forms that pertain to an application. The following is a breakdown of which ones you will need to fill out to get a USCIS Adjustment of Status.
- A form to petition for a green card. This is filled out by your sponsor on your behalf and depends on which category you are making your application.
Family green card: I-130 form
I-130A, Biographic Information, if a relative is a spouse.
Employment-based application: I-140 form
Humanitarian application: I-1730 form
The waiting period depends on your individual circumstances, green card category, and country. This can take years to decades for some individuals.
- Form I-1485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Once a green card is made available, you will be able to then file your adjustment of status application.
A USCIS Form I-485 Supplement J must be filed if you are applying based on employment. This is a Confirmation of a Bona Fide Job Offer or Request for Job Portability Under INA Section 204(j).
Once your I-1485 has been received, you will be mailed a date, time, and location for the USCIS to take your fingerprints and eye scan, also known as a biometrics appointment.
- Form I-765 is an Application for Employment Authorization and should be filled out to work in the US.
- Form I-131 is an Application for Travel Document, which you should fill out if you want to leave the US while your adjustment application is awaiting a decision.
- Form I-693is a report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record. If you have not already submitted a medical report for an earlier part of the application, a USCIS-approved doctor must fill out the form.
- Form I-864,an Affidavit of Support, which is for family-based immigrants only. This form shows that you will not rely on benefits once you are allowed to live in the US permanently.
What documents do I need to apply for an Adjustment of Status?
In addition to the forms needed for application, several additional documents are required for a USCIS Adjustment of Status.
- Proof of Family relationship is required if you are not the primary immigrant, but you are immigrating with a family member. This could be a copy of a birth or marriage certificate.
- Two passport-style photos, preferably taken by a professional.
- Proof of identity can be a photocopy of your passport, refugee travel document, or government-issued ID.
- Birth certificate copy, with an English language translation, if not in English. Asylees and refugees do not need to submit a birth certificate.
- Proof that your entrance into the US was legal. A copy of your passport page with admission or stamp, your I-94, or an advanced parole document is suitable the be used as proof. There are exceptions to this form for those who are applying as asylees, VAWA self petitioners, and people under Section 245(1).
- Proof of your maintained lawful status in the US. I-94 and Forms I-20 will suffice.
- If you are at risk of being considered a public charge, a personal statement is required to explain how the positive factors of you holding a green card out weight the negative in your particular case.
- Any criminal charges, arrests, convictions, certified police, and court records must be included in the application. It is advisable to contact an attorney before filing if you have had altercations with police or immigrant authorities.
- Medical Exam report.
It is advisable to make a copy of every form in the packet that you send as there is a tendency amongst government agencies to lose things.
What is the Visa Bulletin?
The Department of State issues the visa bulletin every month and shows which green card applications can proceed. This assessment is based on when the applicant originally filed the I-130 petition that starts the green card process.
Once your I-130 has been filed, you will be able to see how quickly the line is moving forwards toward the completion of your green card application. You can see how far along your application is and possibly estimate how long it will take before you receive your green card.
Congress puts a cap on the number of green cards that can be given each year. There is consistently a backlog because the number of people who are seeking a green card always exceeds the annual limit. Due to this backlog, there is a need for the visa bulletin to keep applicants up to date on the progress of their green cards.
There are several limitations based on the number of green cards available every year, and there are only 366000 green cards to start with. This number is further broken down into a complex system with a specific quota for each category.
Overall, there are 140,000 employment-based green cards and 226,000 family-based green cards. Under these limitations is a further annual “country cap” on green cards where no single country of origin may have 7% or more green cards issued in any category. This affects countries like China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines, which have populations in the millions and billions, making the visa bulletin particularly useful.
How to Check the Visa Bulletin
The visa bulletin is broken down into preference categories that are given differing priorities. Four primary preference categories can help you to check your status on the visa bulletin once your green card application is being processed. When the USCIS accepts the I-130 form, your priority date is used to designate your place in line on the visa bulletin. The priority date is the filing date of the I-130 petition.
You can refer to the preference category you fall under to further find your status.
F1(first preference): Unmarried adult children (age 21 or over) of US citizens.
F2 (second preference): Green cardholders’ spouses and unmarried children. The cap on this category is 114,200 green cards annually but is further divided into two categories.
F2A: Spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents. This sub-category is for green card holders who have applied for a green card for their spouse. It accounts for 77% of the second category quote, totaling 87,934 green cards annually.
F2B: Unmarried adult children (age 21 and over) of green cardholders. The remaining 23% of the F2 quote goes towards this sub-category, totaling 26,266 green cards per year.
F3 (third preference): Married children of US citizens. There is a cap of 23,400 green cards annually for this category.
F4 (fourth preference): Brothers and sisters of US citizens. Sixty-five thousand green cards annually are the cap on this category.
The F2A category tends to move the fastest in getting a green card because it is the largest quota of green cards. Aiding the speed of this category is the fact that 75% of green cards within this category are exempt from the green card cap. There is no cap on the green cards available for immediate relatives of US citizens, including spouses, parents, and unmarried minor children (under the age of 21). This means that there is no backlog, and spouses of US citizens can apply for a green card when their I-130 petition is approved.
What is the Medical Exam?
You will be required to undergo a medical exam performed by a USCIS-approved doctor to determine if you meet the health-related standards to be admitted to the US as an immigrant and green cardholder. The exam rules out physical or mental disorders, drug abuse or addiction, and communicable diseases and certifies that you have the required vaccinations. The exam results should be submitted with your application package for an adjustment of the status application. Make an appointment to see a civil surgeon before beginning a green card application.
Is there an interview?
Once your AOS application has been received and accepted for processing, the USCIS will put you on a waiting list for an interview. You will receive receipts for the forms you filed, and an Application Support Center Appointment Notice will tell you when to go for your biometrics appointment.
USCIS typically requires that you attend an in-person interview several months after you have visited the USCIS Application Support Centre for your biometric screening. The immediate relatives are generally required to attend the interview.
The interview is used to confirm the information you and the petitioner have provided and for the USCIS to see if the circumstances have changed that make you ineligible for adjustment. The interview is typically 20 to 30 minutes long.
Adjustment of Status Processing Timeline
Once the USCIS has approved your I-130, the interview will likely take place within a year. You will like to be given your approval for a green card at the appointment or shortly after.
Fee for Adjustment of Status
You will typically pay $535 to file your petition. The application to adjust status costs an additional $1,225. The fees vary depending on what application you are making and whether you decide to remove the hassle of an application by using a service provider like Immigrant Office Solutions.