An “adjustment of status” (AOS) refers to the process by which an alien physically in the United States files a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to adjust his or her status from nonimmigrant to immigrant (example H-1B to “Green Card”)
When an applicant files for Adjustment of Status; one is moving from non-immigrant visa status to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (commonly referred to as “Green Card” holder)
According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), certain aliens who were inspected, admitted, or paroled into the United States and meet all of the requirements for a green card are permitted to apply for an AOS. The application is submitted via Form I-485.
For some aliens, namely those who have accrued 180 days or more of unlawful presence, the importance of being eligible to file an AOS cannot be overstated. Accruing a minimum of 180 days of unlawful presence triggers a time bar on aliens attempting to re-enter the country from abroad. If an individual who has at least 180 days of unlawful presence qualifies for an adjustment application, then she will not have to depart the United States and, as a result, will not have to endure a time bar on being able to return to the country.
As referenced above, applying for an AOS signifies that an alien has reached the final step in getting a green card. Once an AOS application is approved, the petitioning individual gains permanent resident status in the United States, meaning that he or she can live and work in the country indefinitely, and perhaps in the future become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
In addition, three significant benefits redound to AOS applicants. While an I-485 petition is pending, an applicant may simultaneously:
- Apply for advance parole, which allows an alien to travel abroad and re-enter the country without having to first obtain a visa.
- Apply for an employment authorization document (EAD), more commonly referred to as a “work permit,” which allows an alien to work for wages in the U.S.
- Remain legally in the United States without having to maintain whichever nonimmigrant status the alien had beforehand.
*WARNING REGARDING ABANDONMENT*
When aliens apply for a change of status (COS) or adjustment of status (AOS), certain actions they take while their applications are pending may lead U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to conclude that they have “abandoned” their applications. Such activities include travel outside of the United States prior to received advance parole to travel abroad, failure to respond to USCIS Requests For additional Evidence (RFEs), failure to appear for scheduled interviews, and failure to appear for biometrics processing, among others.
CAN I APPLY FOR ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS FROM OUTSIDE THE US?
Aliens living abroad are not eligible for an AOS. Instead, they are required to go through consular processing for their immigrant visas at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home countries or, alternatively, countries of foreign residence.
Our Firm is Here to Help
Given the often complicated process and the high stakes—a chance at permanent residency in the United States—involved, it's imperative that aliens seeking adjustment consult with an experienced Immigration Attorney.
We recommend all clients start with a one hour consultation with our attorneys so we can take time to understand your Immigration history and can provide you with the guidance and information you need in order to proceed with maximum chance of successfully acquiring status as a Lawful Permanent Resident.
For more detailed information on Adjustment of Status, including related issues, refer to the following posts:
- Eligibility for Adjustment of Status
- Adjustment of Status via Employment
- 3, 5 and 10 Year Bars
- Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) and “Aging out” Children
- Public Benefits and Public Charge Determinations
- Maintaining Lawful Permanent Resident Status