In the complex realm of U.S. immigration law, one of the key processes that individuals seek to navigate is the “Adjustment of Status.” As an experienced immigration and criminal defense attorney with a practice based in New York and New Jersey, I have witnessed the challenges many individuals face when pursuing this legal avenue. In this comprehensive essay, I will guide you through the intricacies of the Adjustment of Status, from its fundamental concepts to the specific regulations that govern it.
What Is Adjustment of Status?
At its core, Adjustment of Status refers to the process by which certain non-immigrants in the United States can change their immigration status to that of a lawful permanent resident, commonly known as obtaining a “green card.” This process allows individuals to transition from a temporary visa or other non-immigrant status to a more stable and secure legal position within the country.
Understanding the Eligibility Criteria
1. Family-Based Adjustment of Status
Family ties play a significant role in determining eligibility for Adjustment of Status. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for different family preference categories, including immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and family-sponsored preference categories. Spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens fall into the immediate relative category and enjoy a more streamlined process.
2. Employment-Based Adjustment of Status
Employment-based Adjustment of Status is available to individuals with certain employment-based visas, such as those with approved I-140 petitions. It’s important to note that the availability of visas within this category is subject to numerical limits and specific requirements.
3. Diversity Visa Lottery Winners
Each year, the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery program provides a limited number of immigrant visas to individuals from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Winners of the DV Lottery may be eligible to apply for Adjustment of Status.
The Adjustment of Status Process
The Adjustment of Status process involves several key steps:
- File Form I-485: The applicant must submit Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, along with all required supporting documents, to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- Biometrics Appointment: USCIS will schedule a biometrics appointment to collect fingerprints, photographs, and other biographical information from the applicant.
- Interview: Depending on the type of Adjustment of Status application and individual circumstances, USCIS may require an interview to assess eligibility and evaluate the bona fides of the applicant’s relationship (in the case of family-based applications) or employment (in the case of employment-based applications).
- Adjudication: USCIS will review the application, conduct background checks, and make a decision on whether to approve or deny the Adjustment of Status.
- Issuance of Green Card: If approved, the applicant will be issued a green card, granting them lawful permanent resident status.
Legal Terminology and Abbreviations
Before delving deeper into the Adjustment of Status process, it’s essential to clarify some key legal terminology and abbreviations:
- INA: Immigration and Nationality Act
- USCIS: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- I-485: Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
- DV Lottery: Diversity Visa Lottery
- I-140: Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q1: What is the filing fee for Form I-485?
A1: The filing fee for Form I-485 varies depending on the applicant’s age, whether they are applying as a child or an adult, and certain other factors. As of my last update in January 2022, the fee typically ranged from $750 to $1,140. It’s essential to check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date fee information.
Q2: Can I travel outside the U.S. while my Adjustment of Status application is pending?
A2: Generally, if you have a pending Form I-485 application, international travel is restricted. To travel outside the United States, you must obtain advance parole by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, and receiving approval from USCIS. Without advance parole, departing the U.S. can lead to the abandonment of your Adjustment of Status application.
Q3: How long does the Adjustment of Status process typically take?
A3: Processing times for Adjustment of Status applications can vary widely based on factors such as the applicant’s category, USCIS workload, and location. In some cases, it may take several months to over a year for the process to be completed. Checking the USCIS website for current processing times is advisable.
Q4: Can I appeal a denial of my Adjustment of Status application?
A4: Yes, if your Adjustment of Status application is denied, you generally have the right to appeal the decision. The denial letter will provide instructions on how to file an appeal with the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). It’s crucial to seek legal counsel if your application is denied to navigate the appeals process effectively.
Navigating the complexities of the Adjustment of Status process can be a daunting task for many individuals and families seeking to secure their status in the United States. As someone who has devoted their career to immigration and criminal defense law in the bustling cities of New York and New Jersey, I understand the significance of this journey. I encourage you to explore the resources available on my website, Criminal Immigration Lawyer, for more information and guidance on your immigration and legal needs.
In this essay, we have covered the fundamental aspects of Adjustment of Status, from eligibility criteria to the application process and legal terminology. Remember that immigration laws are subject to change, so it’s crucial to stay informed through reliable sources, such as USCIS and legal professionals, to ensure your immigration journey is as smooth as possible.
If you have further questions or require legal assistance, do not hesitate to reach out to a qualified immigration attorney who can provide personalized guidance tailored to your specific circumstances.
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