Family-Based Adjustment of Status: A Short Guide

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Adjustment of Status Under Immigration Law

U.S. immigration law allows individuals to change their immigration status from non-immigrant (temporary) to immigrant (lawful permanent resident status).

To achieve this transition, they need to meet the stipulated requirements to obtain a green card, which would grant them lawful permanent residence in the country, according to the Immigration and Nationality Act. This conversion process is what is referred to as ‘Adjustment of Status.’

This process for non-immigrants implies that they do not have to return to their native country to apply for a green card as long as they’ve entered the U.S. legally.

Even if their temporary visa expires before they receive their adjustment of status application approval, they are usually allowed to remain in the U.S. until they receive a decision from the immigration authorities.

It is an excellent opportunity for students, workers, and non-immigrant visa holders already legally in the U.S. to live and work here permanently.

If you’re in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa and have a close family member who is a U.S. citizen or has a green card, you may be able to adjust your status and apply for a green card.

Family-Preference Categories 

Family-based adjustment of status means transitioning from a non-immigrant visa to permanent residency with the help of a family member or immediate relative.

For example, If you’re a foreign national who came to the U.S. on a student visa, and then you fell in love and married an American citizen, you can apply for adjustment of status, with your spouse as your sponsor, subject to the fulfillment of other immigration conditions.

The benefit of family-based immigration is that there’s more certainty of a positive outcome if you do things right. To be safe, consult an experienced immigration attorney before you begin the process.


Eligibility for Family-Based Adjustment of Status

Before you adjust your immigration status based on a family relationship, you must be sure you’re eligible for a family-sponsored green card. This means that you must fall within one of the approved green card eligibility categories depending on whether your sponsor is a citizen or lawful permanent resident.

Generally, immediate family members of citizens and green card holders, such as spouses, parents, children under 21 years old, and in some cases, siblings, can benefit from this procedure.

Foreign nationals engaged to marry U.S. citizens who entered the U.S. via a K-1 or K-3 visa can also adjust their status after marriage.


Petition for Family Adjustment of Status: How to Apply

The family-based Adjustment of Status procedure usually begins by filing immigration Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form is completed and filed by the sponsor on behalf of the intended immigrant.

Once the petition is approved, the applicant can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This form is usually submitted after the USCIS approves Form I-130, but in some cases, concurrent filing may be allowed.

Generally, you’re not supposed to file Form I-485 until you confirm visa availability for your category. However, this doesn’t apply to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

Once the USCIS receives the family-based Adjustment of Status application from you, you’ll be required to participate in a biometric screening. You may also be invited for an interview or asked to provide additional documents if necessary.

The USCIS will notify you of their decision in writing, and if it is approved, you’ll receive your green card after a while.

If your application is denied, you’ll also receive a notice stating the reason for the denial and whether or not you can appeal the decision.

Denial means the applicant may need to leave the U.S. voluntarily or undergo deportation proceedings. You might need to contact a top-rated immigration attorney in Atlanta at this point to either assist in your immigration appeal or file a motion for reopening or reconsideration of the decision. If your appeal or motion succeeds, you’ll likely be allowed to remain in the U.S.

How Long Does Family-Based Adjustment of Status Take?

Family-based Adjustment of Status processing time varies from case to case, depending on the nature of the application. Generally, it can take anywhere from 8 to 15 months to receive a decision from the USCIS.

The time frame depends on the applicant’s visa category, the number of applications ahead of you, and any changes in USCIS policies.

To get an accurate timeline, you must check your case status online and visit the USCIS processing times portal for updates. You can also contact a qualified immigration lawyer for assistance.


How Do I Become a Lawful Permanent Resident?

Lawful permanent residents enjoy many benefits, including the right to live and work in the U.S., pursue higher education and receive social services.

There are various ways to become a lawful permanent resident, including family relationships, refugee or asylum status, and employment-based immigration.

The most common way is through family-based Adjustment of Status. To qualify for this procedure, you must have a qualifying family relationship with either a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and meet all other requirements for admission to the U.S.

An experienced family immigration lawyer can help you navigate the paperwork and determine your eligibility for family-based Adjustment of Status. They can also guide you through the process to ensure a successful application.

How an Immigration Attorney Can Help You

Many people may find it challenging to understand the process of converting their non-immigrant visa into a family-based green card. The multiple forms and paperwork required could easily throw one off balance and leave room for error.

But with the USCIS, you’ll want to avoid any errors in your application by any means necessary, as such errors could prove very costly.

So, to improve your chances, it might be better to seek professional help from an experienced immigration attorney. Immigration attorneys understand the law and are familiar with the relevant immigration processes. Their knowledge can help you correctly prepare your application for adjustment and represent you throughout the process.

If you are in the Atlanta area and need an immigration attorney, Manji Law, P.C. is here to help. Our Atlanta DACA attorneys can answer your questions about the family-based adjustment of status process and work to make your application as smooth as possible.

So, if you wish to bring a spouse to the USA or need immigration help in Atlanta, contact us today to schedule a consultation and get the assistance you need.