“Adjustment of status” is a common term used to describe a change in U.S. immigration status to permanent residence (green card holder). U.S. immigration law allows a temporary visitor (e.g. student, tourist, etc.) to change status to a permanent immigrant if the individual lawfully entered the United States and meets certain requirements.
The temporary visitor must be in the United States after being lawfully inspected and admitted or paroled. The individual must also meet all the required criteria for a green card in a particular category such as:
- Family relationship (through approved Form I-130 petition);
- Employment (through approved Form I-140 petition);
- K-1 visa holder after marriage to U.S. citizen (through approved Form I-129F petition);
- Asylum or refugee status; or
- Cuban citizenship/nationality.
A request to adjust status to permanent resident is made by filing Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status. Each of the above categories has specific criteria which must be met and documented when filing the I-485 adjustment of status application packet.
One of the major benefits of the adjustment of status process is that eligible individuals already in the United States can get a green card without returning to their home country to complete visa processing.
If an intending immigrant is not eligible to complete the adjustment of status process, consular processing is the alternative path for obtaining a green card. In most cases, the intending immigrant must have an approved immigrant petition filed on his or her behalf. Once a visa becomes available, the foreign national applies for an immigrant visa (green card) through a U.S. Embassy or consular office. This is known as “consular processing."