When applying to become a lawful permanent resident (applying for a Green Card) in the United States, the process you go through, if already inside of the U.S., is referred to as Adjustment of Status. This means you can get a Green Card without returning to your home country through Adjustment of Status. In order to officially file, one must submit Form I-485, or the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Immigrants who are currently abroad (outside of the U.S.) must obtain their visa through what’s known as Consular Processing.
Who Is Eligible for a Green Card?
There are a variety of ways that immigrants can apply for a Green Card under U.S. immigration law. Eligibility requirements depend on the immigrant category that the Adjustment of Status is being applied under, so you’ll need to first determine which immigrant category through which you’ll be applying for permanent residence.
Usually, you cannot file a Green Card application until a visa is available in your category. There are some immigrant categories that do not have visa availability requirement. You’ll want to consult with an expert on immigration law to find out more details. For information on visa availability, check out the Visa Availability and Priority Dates page on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
Filing an Immigrant Petition
Most individuals applying for Adjustment of Status need to complete an additional immigration petition beforehand. Usually, your potential employer or a sponsor is required to file the petition for you. In some cases though you may be eligible to file for yourself. Some immigrant categories allow for you to file your Form I-485 at the same time that your immigrant petition is filed or pending, and some categories do not even require an immigrant petition. You’ll want to consult an expert on the appropriate route for your particular immigration case.
Here are a few examples of immigrant petitions:
- Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
- Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
- Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur
- Form I-929, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant
Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
Under U.S. law, you are eligible to file Form I-485 if you are currently located inside the country. After you file Form I-485, you will need to complete a scheduled biometrics services appointment at a local Application Support Center to provide your fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature to (1) verify your identity and (2) perform background and security checks as required. If you miss your appointment without proper notice or requesting a rescheduled appointment, your Green Card application may be denied.
If an interview is determined necessary, you will be required to appear at a USCIS office to answer questions regarding your petition. At your interview, you must bring originals of all documentation submitted with the application, even if some documents (i.e. passport) have since expired. You may be requested to send additional evidence, which, if you do not respond to in a timely manner, could lead to a denial of your Green Card.
USCIS Decisions on Green Card Application
Once a decision has been made on your Green Card application, you will receive a written notice of the decision by USCIS. If approved, an approval notice is usually sent first before you receive your actual Green Card, known as a Permanent Resident Card. If your application is denied, the written notice will detail the reason, or reasons, why your Green Card application was denied. The denial notice will also include whether or you may appeal the decision.